Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is considering replacing all ministers from the Liberal Democratic Party faction previously led by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, over a series of political fundraising scandals, sources close to the matter said Sunday.
Kishida has already decided to sack Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno over his alleged failure to report millions of yen received as part of fundraising efforts for the party faction, which is the largest within the ruling party, the sources said.
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura faces similar allegations. Along with the ministers, Kishida is also expected to dismiss all senior vice ministers and parliamentary vice ministers from Abe's faction, the sources added.
In addition to Matsuno, the top government spokesman, and Nishimura, the list includes two other ministers, five senior vice ministers and six parliamentary vice ministers from Abe's faction.
Kishida is likely to gauge the timing of when to change his Cabinet after the end of the ongoing extraordinary parliamentary session on Wednesday, the sources said, while calls are growing that Matsuno should be replaced as soon as possible as he holds twice-daily press conferences during the week.
The scandals came to light following a criminal complaint alleging that five LDP factions, including Kishida's group, underreported their revenue from political fundraising parties.
Tokyo prosecutors are looking into a possible violation of the political funds control law after hundreds of millions of yen was allegedly collected by Abe's faction through fundraising parties but not reported in political funding statements from 2018 to 2022.
LDP factions have traditionally set their lawmakers quotas for party tickets, usually priced at 20,000 yen. If they surpass their targets, the extra funds are returned to them as a type of commission.
In the LDP's biggest faction, which Abe headed until his assassination during an election campaign speech in July 2022, the extra funds had neither been reported as expenditure nor as payments to lawmakers, with critics saying it was a form of tax evasion.
Matsuno served as the secretary general of the Abe faction, officially known as the Seiwa policy group, between September 2019 and October 2021. He was succeeded by Nishimura and the incumbent Tsuyoshi Takagi, who is currently the LDP's chief of Diet affairs.
Takagi, LDP policy chief Koichi Hagiuda and Hiroshige Seko, secretary general of the party in the House of Councillors, are also accused of being involved in similar scandals.
On Sunday, Kishida held talks with LDP executives including Hagiuda to discuss how to deal with the latest political fundraising scandals. Kishida will replace Takagi but Hagiuda's fate is uncertain, according to the sources.