Former Kishida faction accountant faces indictment amid kickback scandal

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Japanese prosecutors are set to build a case against a former accountant of a ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) faction previously led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in connection with the enduring political fundraising scandal, local media reported on Thursday.

The former treasurer of the faction, which Kishida left in early December, is expected to face a summary indictment as early as Friday for allegedly failing to declare around 30 million yen (about 203,000 U.S. dollars) over the three years through 2020, national news agency Kyodo reported citing sources familiar with the matter.

The investigation has been focusing on allegations that several LDP factions, including the one formerly led by Kishida, failed to report revenue from fundraising parties, violating the political funds control law.

Prime Minister Kishida, when questioned about the issue, told the press that he had been briefed on an “accumulation of errors” within the faction that were in the process of being rectified, stating that he was not aware of any further issues beyond that.

In a parallel development, prosecutors are also planning to build a case against a secretary of former LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai. The secretary is accused of failing to report a portion of party ticket revenue that exceeded quotas set for the lawmaker. The faction in question is believed to have accumulated slush funds totaling tens of millions of yen.

At the end of last year, in the wake of the unfolding scandal where five major factions were suspected of paying kickbacks to member lawmakers who sold fundraising party tickets above their quota without recording the amount as revenue in its political fund reports, over 10 senior officials or heavyweight lawmakers have stepped down from their positions in Kishida’s cabinet or in the LDP.

The dismissal of the senior officials, all from the largest LDP faction, namely Seiwaken, was regarded as a strategic move by Kishida to distance himself and his party from the escalating scandal, which pushed the support ratings for Kishida’s cabinet to fresh lows in multiple December surveys, signaling that the administration may be in the “danger zone.”

The faction previously led by late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was suspected to have pooled secret funds amounting to around 500 million yen over the past five years.

However, analysts then pointed out that as other factions, including Kishida’s own, may also be involved in the scandal, the prime minister’s gamble to axe the largest LDP faction may not necessarily guarantee its smooth way out of the crisis. (One U.S. dollar equals 147.98 Japanese yen)

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