Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, Japan's top government spokesman, is accused of failing to report more than 10 million yen ($70,000) in income raised through events hosted by his party faction, a source close to the matter said Friday.
Matsuno belongs to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's largest faction, formerly headed by slain Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which is suspected to have pooled funds amounting to over 100 million yen without reporting the revenue in political funding statements.
Other senior faction members believed to have also not reported funds exceeding 10 million yen are Diet affairs chief Tsuyoshi Takagi and Hiroshige Seko, secretary general of the party in the House of Councillors, the source said.
After the allegations emerged, Matsuno, one of the most influential ministers within Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's Cabinet, said he has no intention to resign when speaking at a regular Friday press conference.
"I will continue to fulfill my duties with a sense of responsibility," he said, adding that his faction is currently in the process of verifying the facts related to the allegations, which may constitute a violation of the political funds control law.
Matsuno, an eighth-term House of Representatives lawmaker who became the top government spokesman in October 2021 when Kishida assumed power, served as the faction's secretary general in charge of practical affairs for about two years from 2019.
During a parliamentary session on Friday, Yukio Edano, a former leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, lambasted Kishida, saying Matsuno has created "doubt among the public" and "put the Cabinet into crisis."
When Edano asked whether the government accepts that not reporting the funds amounts to "tax evasion," Kishida, who leads the LDP, said only that he will not comment on an "individual situation" and the party takes the issue seriously.
Facing growing criticism over the allegations, Kishida instructed the party factions to refrain from hosting fundraising parties until measures are implemented to regain public trust. He also decided to leave his faction, the party's fourth-largest, while serving as premier.
Prosecutors have started investigating the scandal following a criminal complaint alleging that five LDP factions, including Kishida's, underreported their revenue from political fundraising parties.
LDP factions have traditionally set their lawmakers quotas for party tickets, usually priced at 20,000 yen, investigative sources said, adding if they surpass their targets, the extra income is returned as a form of commission in some intraparty groups.
The biggest faction, Seiwaken, or the Seiwa policy study group, reported collecting around 660 million yen in party revenue over five years through 2022, according to its political funds reports.
Among about 100 lawmakers in the faction, at least 10 have received funds, with some given 10 million yen or more, the sources said, adding that prosecutors are considering interrogating them once the ongoing parliamentary session ends on Wednesday.
Japanese law obliges political groups and lawmakers to list the names of organizations and individuals who purchase party tickets worth more than 200,000 yen in their funding reports.
Violation of the law's clause carries a penalty of imprisonment for up to five years or fines of up to 1 million yen upon conviction.