The Liberal Democratic Party said Monday it will pursue punishment for 39 members over a political funds scandal that has rattled the ruling party since late last year, notably excluding Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and party heavyweight Toshihiro Nikai who has decided not to seek reelection as a lawmaker.

The LDP has come under intense scrutiny since some of its factions, including the largest one formerly led by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, were found to have neglected to report portions of fundraising party revenue for years, with hundreds of millions of yen passed back to members.

 Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi holds a news conference at the party headquarters in Tokyo on April 1, 2024. (Kyodo)

LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi on Monday requested a meeting of the party's ethics committee to officially decide on the punishment of the 39 incumbent and former lawmakers, including those who failed to book at least 5 million yen ($33,000) in the political funds report during five years through 2022.

Three House of Representatives members of the Abe faction -- Ryu Shionoya, its de facto leader since Abe's assassination, former LDP policy chief Hakubun Shimomura and former trade minister Yasutoshi Nishimura -- are expected to be punished even though their unreported funds did not exceed 5 million yen.

The three lower house members, along with Hiroshige Seko, another Abe faction member and former secretary general of the party in the House of Councillors, the upper house, are blamed for their failure to stop the inappropriate fundraising practice.

Such funds have been raised by lawmakers for selling tickets for faction events beyond their assigned quotas. The excess funds were allegedly not reported while being distributed to lawmakers.

Some or all of the four members of the Abe faction may face the punishment of being advised to leave the party -- the second-severest in its eight levels of penalties following expulsion.

The ethics committee will be convened possibly on Thursday.

Kishida, meanwhile, who doubles as LDP president, said earlier that he himself would not be subject to penalties given that his faction, unlike the Abe and Nikai groups, did not pass back money to members.

Nikai, a longtime secretary general whose off-the-book funds were the largest excluding lawmakers indicted over the scandal, was not in the list of those to be disciplined.

Motegi said the decision was made taking into consideration that the veteran lower house member has said he will not run in the next general election to take responsibility for his faction's involvement in the scandal.

About 40 other members who also had not properly reported their political funds will not be examined by the ethics committee but will be issued "a warning" not to repeat such acts, Motegi said.

In a probe conducted by the LDP, 85 members, including three heads of electoral district branches, were found to have failed to declare around 580 million yen as revenue in their political funds reports for the five-year period through 2022.

The Kishida, Abe and Nikai factions have decided to disband in the wake of the scandal.

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