Former education minister Hakubun Shimomura denied a report Thursday alleging that he received ¥2 million in undeclared donations from scandal-tainted school operator Kake Gakuen, claiming that the donations were made separately by 11 individuals and corporations and were entirely legal.
Shimomura held a news conference Thursday after the latest issue of the weekly Shukan Bunshun exposed alleged donations from the school operator, basing the report on what the weekly claims are digital copies of internal documents from Shimomura’s office.
The Shukan Bunshun said the documents showed Kake Gakuen had given ¥2 million in donations which were not reported in Shimomura’s official financial reports in an apparent violation of the Political Funds Control Law.
The report could seriously damage Shimomura’s public image and adversely affect his Liberal Democratic Party in Sunday’s Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election.
Shimomura, a longtime aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, serves as the head of the LDP’s Tokyo chapter. He is also a deputy secretary general of the party.
“We are now consulting with my lawyer to file charges with police or prosecutors” against an unidentified person who allegedly leaked the files to Shukan Bunshun, Shimomura said at the news conference.
Shimomura also said he is preparing to file a libel lawsuit against Shukan Bunshun.
Shimomura admitted that records from his office included Kake Gakuen on lists of donors who bought tickets for Shimomura’s fundraising parties in 2013 and 2014, as alleged by Shukan Bunshun. But the school operator happened to be recorded as the donor on the private list because the head of the corporate secretariat of Kake Gakuen had collected the donations on behalf of 11 other parties and delivered the money to Shimomura’s office, he claimed.
According to Shimomura, the donations from the 11 parties were each ¥200,000 or less. Under the Political Funds Control Law, a donation of ¥200,000 or less does not need to be noted in official reports. However, Shimomura did not identify the 11 donors during the news conference, saying his office doesn’t have records of their names. Shimomura also said he doesn’t know if the 11 include any executive or board members of Kake Gakuen. He said he would try to “confirm” the names.
Shukan Bunshun’s report is particularly damaging to Shimomura and the LDP because the Okayama-based school operator has recently made headlines over alleged government favoritism in a special deregulation project. Opposition lawmakers have alleged that Kake Gakuen, whose official English name is Kake Educational Institution, was allowed to start a new veterinary department — the first such opening in the nation in 52 years — at one of its universities because of the school operator’s close ties with the prime minister. Kake Gakuen is chaired by Kotaro Kake, one of Abe’s closest friends.
The scandal has remained in the headlines in recent weeks as a number of internal documents have been leaked from the education ministry, all of which suggest that the Cabinet Office repeatedly pressured the ministry to favor Kake Gakuen, citing “the intent of the prime minister.”
Shukan Bunshun also reported that it discovered more than ¥10 million in ticket sales for fundraising events were undeclared on Shimomura’s official reports over three years, even though internal documents show that his office received them. Shimomura said only that his office is still investigating that allegation and that the tickets may have been sold in a way similar to that of the ¥2 million from the 11 parties.
Concluding the news conference, Shimomura said he would take more questions from the media only after the election so he can concentrate on campaigning. “Now only three days are left before the metropolitan assembly election, including today,” he said. “I will carefully answer questions after the election is over,” he said.
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