Prosecutors will reopen an investigation into former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over millions of yen spent on dinner receptions held for supporters, after an inquest body decided that an earlier decision by prosecutors not to indict him was inappropriate, sources close to the move said Friday.
The decision by the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution, dated July 15, relates to allegations of endowments under the public officers election law, as well as failure to fulfill a duty of care in selecting and managing accounting officers under the political funds control law.
The former premier “must fulfill his responsibility to provide explanations about any suspicions” instead of holding his secretary entirely responsible, the decision said.
Abe told reporters Friday he would wait to see how the investigation proceeds, saying that the prosecutors’ original decision not to indict him was the result of a properly conducted investigation.
The Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s Office’s special investigations unit decided last year not to press charges against Abe over the scandal because of insufficient evidence.
In the case, Hiroyuki Haikawa, one of Abe’s state-paid secretaries, was fined for failing to report some ¥30 million ($274,000) in income and expenditure related to the dinner functions that should have been reported in political funds reports between 2016 and 2019.
Since the scandal came to light in 2019, the former prime minister has repeatedly denied at the Diet the allegation that a group managing his political funds partially covered the costs of the receptions.
After prosecutors decided not to press charges in December, Abe said he had no knowledge of any problems with his office’s bookkeeping but apologized for having repeatedly denied accusations that turned out to be true.
Haikawa headed the group of supporters of the prime minister that hosted receptions at two luxury hotels in Tokyo between 2013 and 2019 on the eve of government-sponsored annual cherry blossom viewing parties.
The events cost ¥23 million over a five-year period through 2019 — much higher than the amounts collected from attendees, many of whom were voters in Abe’s constituency in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
To make up for the shortfalls, Abe’s office is believed to have paid a total of ¥9 million over the five-year period. But the supporters’ group and the former leader’s fund management body did not record the income and expenditures in their political fund reports, in violation of the political funds control law.
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