Tokyo, July 30 (Jiji Press)–Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to be reinvestigated by public prosecutors over a high-profile dinner party scandal, it was learned Friday.
The Tokyo No. 1 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution, a panel of citizens, ruled that parts of prosecutors’ decision not to indict Abe were unjust.
The ruling, dated July 15, came after a group of citizens filed a claim against the non-indictment.
“As citizens, we cannot accept that someone who was prime minister says he did not know because it was something his secretary did,” the ruling said. “(Abe) should properly fulfill his accountability.”
Following the panel’s ruling, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office will reinvestigate the case and make a decision again on whether to charge Abe. Unlike a more powerful decision by the inquest committee that could lead to forcible indictment, if the prosecutors decide not to indict him again, the decision will not be subject to another screening by the committee.
In the scandal, the former prime minister’s support group omitted dinner party costs totaling some 30 million yen from its funds reports over four years. The dinner parties in question were held by the support group at a Tokyo hotel on the eve of the government’s publicly funded annual cherry blossom-viewing events.
The panel ruled that prosecutors were wrong not to indict Abe over possible violations of the public offices election law, finding that payments by the Abe side for some of dinner party costs amounted to donations to voters, and of the political funds control law, for not fulfilling his duty of care in selecting and supervising the treasurer of his fund management organization.
The inquest committee said that relying only on statements by some of the dinner party participants was not enough for prosecutors to conclude that there was insufficient evidence of participants recognizing the Abe side’s payments as donations.
It said that prosecutors should determine whether Abe recognized the criminality of his act on the basis of objective evidence such as emails, instead of just statements by Abe and the secretary.
Meanwhile, the panel upheld the prosecution’s decision not to indict Abe for failing to include some dinner party costs in funds reports.
Last December, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office’s special investigation squad filed a summary indictment against a state-paid secretary to Abe on charges of breaching the political funds control law. The secretary served as the support group’s representative.
But it concluded that there was not enough evidence to confirm that Abe was involved in the false reports.
During his time as prime minister, Abe repeatedly made incorrect comments in parliament, denying that his office had covered the dinner party costs.
After prosecutors decided not to indict him, Abe admitted last December that there were inaccuracies in his parliamentary remarks and corrected them. He apologized and said that he was unaware of his office’s involvement.
Following the panel’s decision, the former prime minister told reporters on Friday that he will “watch the authorities’ actions quietly.”
In March this year, the Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution ruled against the prosecution’s decision not to indict the former secretary over the failure to include dinner party costs in the 2015 funds report. The prosecutors, however, decided again the following month not to indict the secretary.