TOKYO — A group of citizens have filed a criminal complaint against former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, an unspecified employee of brewer Suntory Holdings Ltd. and two others, alleging that free alcoholic beverages provided at functions hosted by Abe’s support group constituted illegal political donations.
The complaint filed with the Tokyo District Attorney’s Office on June 10, which also named Abe’s then-government-funded chief secretary, pointed out that Suntory had served free alcoholic beverages at group-sponsored dinners. Abe’s support at a Tokyo hotel between 2017 and 2019, on the eve of cherry blossom viewing parties.
It was revealed that Suntory provided a total of 382 bottles of drinks including beer and whiskey (worth about 450,000 yen, or about $3,300) for free at the pre-party functions. -Sakura. The citizens’ group says this constituted “donations to other political organisations” – such as support groups for legislators – which are prohibited under the Control of Political Funds Act.
The group focused its lawsuit on the 2019 dinner party, where 150,000 yen worth of drinks were provided, pointing out that the three-year statute of limitations for the lawsuits did not expire that year. The Suntory employee is listed anonymously in the complaint as the group says it remains unknown which worker or workers were involved in the diner duties.
The group also claims that the former prime minister and his then chief secretary neglected their oversight responsibilities and failed to ensure that the support group’s accountant reported the value of alcohol served on placed as a donation in a political finance report.
Regarding the criminal complaint filed against its employee, Suntory Holdings declined to comment, while Abe’s office said, “We have properly corrected political finance reports where necessary based on prosecutors’ decisions.”
As part of the state-funded cherry blossom viewing parties, separate criminal complaints have been filed against the former prime minister and his secretary on suspicion of breaching the Control of Political Funds Act. In this complaint, they are accused of having partially covered the hotel costs on behalf of the party participants. The former secretary was issued a summary order fining him 1 million yen ($7,400) in 2020. Charges against Abe, on the other hand, were dropped for lack of reasonable suspicion.
(Japanese original by Yujiro Futamura, Tokyo City News Department)