A lawmaker from Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party has decided to resign due to a political funds scandal ahead of a spate of local assembly elections next spring, government sources said Monday.

Kentaro Sonoura. (For editorial use only)(Kyodo)

The resignation of Kentaro Sonoura would deal a fresh blow to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the president of the LDP, after three Cabinet members, all of whom are also party lawmakers, were effectively sacked over various scandals in recent months.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is considering issuing a summary indictment against Sonoura on charges of violating the political funds control law before the end of the year, the sources said.

Sonoura, 50, is known as an aide to LDP Vice President Taro Aso, a key backer of the Kishida government.

He has voluntarily submitted to questioning by prosecutors after being suspected of underreporting some 40 million yen ($295,000) in political funds, which he raised through fundraising parties, according to the sources.

The fifth-term House of Representatives member had told reporters last month he was unaware of any underreporting but later backpedaled during questioning by prosecutors, saying he was informed by one of his secretaries.

An organization that manages Sonoura's political funds reported it had received 43.62 million yen from six fundraising events held between 2018 and 2020. The lawmaker heads the body.

A different support group for Sonoura reported separately that it had raised some 10 million yen through three events between 2017 and 2019. The secretary serves as treasurer for both groups.

The two bodies are also suspected of receiving more revenue via political fundraising events and underreporting to the tune of about 40 million yen, according to the sources.

Failure to report income or expenditure is punishable by up to five years imprisonment or a fine of up to 1 million yen under the law.

If fined, Sonoura would lose his status as a lawmaker and face a suspension of his civil rights for five years in principle, during which he would not be able to run in any election.

His suspension period may be shortened if he resigns and admits to conspiring with his secretary in underreporting his income before the indictment is finalized.

A former reporter for the major Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun, Sonoura worked as a special advisor on foreign affairs and senior vice foreign minister under the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was fatally shot during an election campaign speech in July.

In Japan, local elections are scheduled to be held across the country in April, although no national elections are slated for the coming three years unless the lower house is dissolved.

Under provisions in the public office election law, if Sonoura resigns by March 15, a by-election in his constituency in Chiba Prefecture is expected to be held in April.

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