Japanese prosecutors on Friday indicted several individuals from three factions within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, including one formerly led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, over a political fundraising scandal that has sent shockwaves through the party.

But the prosecutors said they did not indict executives of the three factions due to a lack of evidence despite mounting criticism over the scandal, prompting opposition parties to lambaste LDP lawmakers for failing to take full responsibility.

The prosecutors indicted without arrest a lawmaker and an accountant from the largest faction previously headed by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, while a former accountant of Kishida's group and another politician of the Abe faction were issued summary indictments.

A former accountant of a faction led by former LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai was also indicted without arrest and a secretary of Nikai, an influential figure in the ruling party, was issued a summary indictment.

Photo taken on Jan. 19, 2024, shows the Liberal Democratic Party headquarters in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

Kenta Izumi, chief of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, told reporters that the prosecutors' decision not to indict the LDP executives "preys on the weak," adding that Kishida has not demonstrated his leadership.

The Tokyo prosecutors were investigating whether the senior lawmakers from the Abe faction had colluded with the faction's accountant, questioning them on a voluntary basis. But they failed to find evidence of such collusion, the prosecutors said.

"We judged it difficult to prove any collusion," Takashi Shinkawa, an official of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, said at a press conference.

It is rare for prosecutors to meet the press, but Shinkawa said they decided to do so because there is a "high degree of social interest" in the scandal and they are aware that it is necessary to inform the public of the development.

A summary indictment is a simplified legal procedure in which those accused do not face a formal trial and are fined by a court.

The LDP has been under intense scrutiny as the biggest faction is suspected of having failed to report hundreds of millions of yen in revenue from fundraising parties to accumulate secret slush funds over a five-year period through 2022.

On Friday, Kishida apologized for a series of indictments that have hurt public trust in politics, telling reporters that his LDP will take measures to prevent a recurrence.

Factions within the LDP have traditionally set quotas for lawmakers for the sale of party tickets, usually priced at 20,000 yen ($135). In some groups, if lawmakers surpass their targets, the extra funds are passed back to them as a type of commission.

Key members of the Abe faction include former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno and former trade minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, both of whom served as secretary general for the group, and former LDP Diet affairs chief Tsuyoshi Takagi, who currently holds the position.

In addition to lawmakers believed to have had knowledge of the flow of money, two politicians with ministerial experience and lawmaker Ryu Shionoya, who is the de facto head of the Abe faction, were also alleged to have received slush funds.

Rank-and-file lawmakers Yasutada Ono and Yaichi Tanigawa, who were indicted Friday, are suspected of receiving more than 50 million yen and some 40 million yen, respectively, from slush funds created by their group, sources close to the matter said.

Ono and Tanigawa left the party upon the indictment. Later in the day, Tanigawa apologized to the public, while Ono told reporters that he was "not involved" in any violation.

Yoshitaka Ikeda, a lawmaker who belonged to the Abe faction known as Seiwaken or the Seiwa policy study group, was arrested in early January over similar allegations. The LDP expelled Ikeda after prosecutors built a case against him.

The amount the Abe faction amassed appears to have totaled about 500 million yen over five years from 2018, a period during which the statute of limitations has not expired under the political funds control law, the sources said.

Several lawmakers of the Abe faction may have pocketed a portion of the revenue they collected by selling party tickets above their quotas, with the total amount reaching at least 80 million yen between 2018 and 2022, according to the sources.

The majority of nearly 100 members of the Abe faction are suspected of having received funds, but Ono, Tanigawa and Ikeda allegedly obtained significantly more than the others, the sources said. Ikeda is accused of having procured around 48 million yen.

The law requires a political group's accountant to submit a report on its income and expenditure. Failure to do so can result in imprisonment for up to five years or a fine of up to 1 million yen.

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