Ex-Japan PM Abe may be summoned to parliament in funding case

FILE PHOTO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gives a policy speech at the start of the regular session of parliament in Tokyo, Japan, January 20, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

(Reuters) -Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may be summoned to parliament for questioning by lawmakers amid a row over a possible violation of election funding laws, several government and ruling party sources told Reuters on Thursday.

The ruling bloc is arranging to summon Abe on Friday for questioning at steering committees, the sources said on condition of anonymity. It is also considering whether to put the sessions online to open them to the public, they said.

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.

Abe will give a news conference on Thursday from 18:00 local time (0900 GMT), a staffer who answered the phone at his office told Reuters, without confirming whether it will be about the issue.

Tokyo prosecutors on Thursday handed a summary indictment against Abe’s secretary, Hiroyuki Haikawa, but had decided not to press charges against Abe, domestic media reported.

Prosecutors had been building a case against the 61-year-old over unreported funds involving as much as 40 million yen ($386,210).

Haikawa was not immediately available for comment.

Abe had appeared for voluntary questioning on Monday about the issue and again denied his involvement, media said.

The issue risks hurting current Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who was Abe’s right-hand man during his 2012-2020 tenure and defended him in parliament.