The Liberal Democratic Party’s local chapter headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe received at least ¥1.74 million in donations from 2011 to 2013 from companies that had been selected for government subsidies, political funding reports and other sources said Tuesday.
The Abe administration has been hit by questions over the handling of political funds, with Environment Minister Yoshio Mochizuki and Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa under fire for donations to their local chapters from subsidized firms.
Also on the list are Yoshimasa Hayashi, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and Akira Amari, minister of economic and fiscal policy.
The latest development, however, ensnares the opposition camp as well. Democratic Party of Japan leader Katsuya Okada was found to have been involved in similar circumstances.
The Yamaguchi No. 4 LDP chapter received a total of ¥240,000 in September 2011 and September 2012 from Tohzai Chemical Industry Co., a chemical product wholesaler in Osaka, the political funding reports show.
The Small and Medium Enterprise Agency decided in April 2011 and June 2012 to grant about ¥10 million in total subsidies to the company, according to the Kansai Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry.
The chapter also received ¥500,000 each on three occasions between 2011 and 2013 from Ube Industries Ltd. in Tokyo.
In the same period, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry decided to extend about ¥93 million in total subsidies to the company.
The political funds control law bans a company from making a political donation within a year of receiving a notification of the government’s decision to grant a subsidy.
At issue is whether Abe knew about the government’s decisions to subsidize the companies, a key factor in deciding the legality of the donations.
“According to the prime minister, it is true that (the chapter) received donations, but (Abe) was unaware that the companies concerned received subsidies,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.
Abe “said he will check the facts. I believe that once he finishes checking, he will handle the issue appropriately,” Suga said.
Some experts pointed to the limitations of the existing law, which took effect in 1948, as the definition of subsidies is vague. It includes some exceptions; financial support for experiments and research as well as disaster relief does not count as subsidies under the law.
The Osaka-based chemical company declined comment. Ube Industries said it believes the exception clause should be applied to the subsidy it received.
As for Mochizuki and Kamikawa, the two ministers denied Monday that their local party chapters violated the political funds control law by receiving donations from a government-subsidized logistics firm.
They said they did not knowingly break the law in respect to donations received between 2011 and 2012, which totaled ¥6.2 million between them.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Hayashi said that an LDP chapter he represents has received a total of ¥600,000 from two companies to which the government had decided to extend subsidies.
Amari said separately that an LDP chapter he heads received a total of ¥120,000 from one company in July 2013 and January 2014, and that he has returned the full amount.
Meanwhile, it was found that a DPJ chapter Okada represents in Mie Prefecture received ¥240,000 each in June 2011 and June 2012 from Nisshin Seifun Group Inc. of Tokyo, the nation’s largest flour miller.
The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry decided in April 2011 and April 2012 to extend ¥1.5 billion each in subsidies to Nisshin Flour Milling Inc., a core company of Nisshin Seifun Group., as part of a project to ensure sufficient food reserves.
Okada’s office said it sees no illegality in the case because the company that made donations to the DPJ chapter and the company that received the government subsidies are different entities.
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