'Cherry blossom' scandal: Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe questioned by prosecutors

WION Web Team
Tokyo, Japan Updated: Dec 22, 2020, 03:34 PM(IST)

Shinzo Abe Photograph:( Reuters )

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Abe, who stepped down citing ill health in September, is under fire on suspicion his office helped cover the costs of dinner parties for supporters, a possible violation of funding laws that he denied when questioned in parliament last year

Japanese prosecutors on Tuesday questioned former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over a funding scandal that could harm the country’s current leader, Yoshihide Suga.

Abe, who stepped down citing ill health in September, is under fire on suspicion his office helped cover the costs of dinner parties for supporters, a possible violation of funding laws that he denied when questioned in parliament last year.

Prosecutors have been building a case against Abe's secretary over unreported funds involving as much as 40 million yen ($386,922) and had asked Abe to appear for voluntary questioning about the issue, domestic media reported this month.

Tokyo prosecutors said they do not comment on investigations. Abe's office declined to comment and requested that questions be sent by facsimile.

The scandal risks tarnishing Abe’s legacy and could weaken Suga, his preferred successor when he stepped down, saying he required treatment for a recurrence of a chronic bowel condition.

Suga, who was Abe’s chief spokesman for almost eight years, publicly defended the then prime minister when the allegations were first reported last year.

The pressure is building on Abe to give unsworn testimony before a parliamentary budget committee, possibly before the end of the year.

Suga has already seen his approval ratings tumble over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He drew fire for joining year-end social gatherings despite asking Japanese citizens to avoid such parties amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

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