Japan prosecutors raid offices of ruling party amid political kickback scandal News
Kestrel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Japan prosecutors raid offices of ruling party amid political kickback scandal

NHK News revealed in an exclusive report Tuesday that the Tokyo Prosecutor’s Office conducted a raid of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) offices on allegations that the party’s Abe and Nikai factions participated in a financial kickback scheme in violation of the Political Funds Control Act.

Prosecutors alleged that the Abe faction did not report 500 million yen and the Nikai faction did not report 100 million yen gained over five years from selling tickets to political events. While it is legal for politicians to sell tickets to political events in Japan, under the Political Funds Control Act, those ticket sales must be reported. Allegedly, each faction set caps on income from ticket sales based on the length of time a politician had served and the relative power of their government position. Ticket profits in excess of those limits were allegedly kicked back to party leadership without reporting the excess funds.

The scandal has engulfed many high-ranking members of current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s cabinet and high-level LDP leaders including Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, Trade Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura and LDP Political Research Chair Koichi Hagiuda. All three stepped down from their positions after the allegations emerged. Both Nishimura and Hagiuda promised to fully cooperate with the ongoing investigation. In a press conference Tuesday, Toshimitsu Motegi, the Secretary-General of the LDP, stated that the party would monitor the investigation as it developed and take appropriate actions to restore public trust. There are currently calls within the LDP to reform and strengthen the Political Funds Control Act when the Diet, Japan’s legislative body, begins its 2024 session in January.

This is not the first time Japan has been rocked by a political finance scandal. In 1974, former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka resigned and was eventually arrested for receiving bribes from military technology company and aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin, and in 2010 former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama resigned after his party allegedly failed to report portions of their political fundraising.