Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Wednesday that he has told executives of his ruling party to hold off on fundraising parties, as he strives to regain public trust undermined by a political funds scandal involving its factions.

Kishida asked the Liberal Democratic Party executives at a meeting to forgo such parties until the implementation of measures to address growing criticism over the alleged underreporting of income from fundraising parties linked to the creation of secret funds.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrives at the premier's office in Tokyo on Dec. 6, 2023. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

The allegations, which the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office's special investigation squad is investigating, have "shaken public trust in politics," Kishida told reporters after the meeting.

His party has to approach the situation with a "strong sense of crisis," the premier said.

He also urged the executives against holding year-end or New Year events. It is unclear when the party will draw up the measures.

The allegations come at a sensitive time for the Kishida Cabinet as opinion polls show its support rates staying at or near record lows.

Five factions, including Kishida's, understated their revenue from fundraising parties, according to investigative sources. Nearly 80 percent of the around 380 LDP lawmakers belong to the five groups.

The largest faction, formerly led by slain Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is suspected to have pooled secret funds amounting to around 100 million yen ($680,000).

The LDP factions have traditionally set their lawmakers quotas for party tickets, usually priced at 20,000 yen, the sources said, adding if they surpass their targets, the extra income is returned as kickbacks.

Prosecutors have questioned secretaries of lawmakers who are alleged to have received kickbacks from the largest faction called Seiwaken, or the Seiwa policy study group, on a voluntary basis, the investigative sources said.

At least 10 lawmakers received kickbacks, with some given 10 million yen or more by the faction comprising around 100 members, the sources said.

The prosecutors are considering questioning lawmakers of the Seiwaken faction who accepted large sums in kickbacks once the current parliamentary session ends on Dec. 13, according to the sources.

The faction reported collecting around 660 million yen in party revenue over five years through 2022, according to its political funds reports.

Another faction headed by former LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai is suspected of failing to report as political funds the money that was collected in excess of its members' ticket quotas, possibly amounting to about 100 million yen, the sources said.

The faction, called Shisuikai, booked about 1.16 billion yen in party revenues in its political funds reports between 2018 through 2022.


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