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Japan's ex-PM Abe contradicted facts in Diet 33 times over sakura parties

Then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is seen speaking during a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on Feb. 5, 2020, following a question regarding controversial cherry blossom-viewing parties. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe contradicted facts regarding allegations that his political support group covered shortfalls in expenses for controversial pre-sakura party dinner functions at least 33 times during Diet deliberations between 2019 and 2020, it has been learned.

    Regarding the allegations, his aides and have already admitted that Abe's support group pitched in some money for the annual dinner events, which were hosted by the group and held at luxury hotels in Tokyo.

    The House of Representatives Research Bureau revealed the finding during a meeting with opposition parties on Nov. 24 after the bureau complied with the request of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) and three other opposition parties. The bureau's report exposed that Abe provided a series of what could be labeled as false accounts during meetings of the extraordinary Diet session in the fall of 2019 and the 2020 regular session, and these responses could be categorized into three patterns.

    The most common pattern was seen when Abe denied his office's involvement in contracts with the hotels that served as venues for the dinner events. Abe had claimed that each dinner attendee was in contract with the hotels individually. During a Feb. 5 lower house Budget Committee meeting, he argued that the workers at his office "who merely made arrangements would not be the primary agents in the contracts (with the hotels)." He made similar remarks during Diet meetings 16 times in total.

    However, it has come to light through testimonies by his aides and other sources that Abe's group was likely involved in the contracts when it covered the cost of the events.

    The second pattern seen in Abe's accounts was when he told the Diet that the detailed statements of transactions with the hotels did not exist, although the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is believed to have obtained the statements issued by the hotels. Abe told the Nov. 20, 2019 House of Councillors plenary session, "I checked with my office and they said the hotels did not issue (the statements)." He made similar comments during Diet sessions a total of 10 times.

    The third pattern seen in Abe's responses was when he completely denied his supporters' group covering the cost of the dinner functions, which totaled seven times. He said, "There is no revenue or expenditure involving the supporters' group," during the Nov. 20 upper house plenary meeting, while telling the upper house Budget Committee session on March 4 this year, "There is absolutely no reality in which my office made up (the balance of the cost)."

    Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga who served as Abe's chief Cabinet secretary at the time, also provided accounts in line with Abe's three patterns a total of six times in the Diet. CDP Secretary-General Tetsuro Fukuyama told reporters on Nov. 25, "It's an undeniable fact that then Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga repeated false accounts under former Prime Minister Abe to be consistent with him."

    (Japanese original by Kenta Miyahara, Political News Department)

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