By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ANKARA (AA) - Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is facing a probe for allegedly spending thousands of dollars on dinner functions hosted for his supporters during his eight-year term.
Kyodo News agency reported Tuesday Abe’s office is suspected of covering a shortfall of about $77,000 -- a “possible violation of the political funds control law”.
The probe came after a criminal complaint was filed by lawyers and scholars last May against Abe. The complainants claimed Abe and his officers allegedly broke law “by failing to report the payment of the difference between the total costs of each party and the contributions paid by attendees.”
Many of Abe’s former secretaries and multiple other supporters have been questioned by public prosecutors.
The alleged payment by Abe is said to have been made between 2013 and 2019 at Tokyo hotels.
“[My] office is fully cooperating with the investigation. I can’t say anything more than that at this stage,” Abe told reporters today.
The dinner functions were held annually over five years from 2015 at two hotels in Tokyo where the total bills exceeded the amount collected from ticket sales.
The attendees of these parties were charged around $48 each. However, the five-star hotel events in Japanese capital normally cost approximately $105 or more per head.
At least 800 supporters of Abe attended the 2019 edition of cherry blossom viewing party.
Organized by Abe supporter group, the dinner functions were normally organized on the eve of annual public cherry blossom viewing party.
It also invited criticism to Abe for “inviting hundreds of his backers to the taxpayer-funded events.”
“Receipts from the hotels indicate that Abe’s office covered the shortfall,” sources told Yonhap News.
If proved that Abe had violated the election law by “contributing to covering the cost of the gathering,” it is tantamount “to buying votes.”
However, Abe has denied in parliament that his office covered the shortfall.
After taking over reins in mid-September, Abe’s successor Yoshihide Suga promised to abandon the tradition of holding state-funded cherry blossom viewing parties.