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Was a financial scandal the reason for Abe’s departure? September 13, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Japan, Politics.
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Local sources are saying that Shukan Gendai magazine will publish an article in this week’s edition (out on Saturday 15th) regarding financial transactions which are tantamount to tax evasion.

The story goes like this: When Shintaro Abe, also a prominent LDP politician during his time (he served ministereal posts at MAFF and MITI as well as the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and also served as LDP General Secretary), passed away in 1991, he donated his estate to his own political organization, thereby allowing his son (sons?) to evade paying inheritence tax. The amount of tax which would otherwise have been payable is quoted as being as much as JPY300M.

Whilst the incident happened too long ago for there to be any legal implications, because of the large sum of money involved, and the fact that this method of avoiding tax is only available to people who control their own political organizations, it is forseeable that such facts would lead to criticism of politicians using their special status, taking advantage of mechanisms available to a select few to avoid paying taxes like every other normal person.

Whilst donations are not forbidden per se, if the donation appears to have been made as a method of avoiding tax, it would have been a huge blow to an administration which has had more than its fair share of financial scandals. This may be the biggest (at least in terms of sum) of them all.

The really interesting question which arises from this is, how common a practice is this within political circles? Japanese media is so often just content with focusing on one specific target, even when practices are fairly widespread.

There are so many hereditary politicians in Japanese politics, I hope someone will have a good look at the financial circumstances of all of these political family businesses. (currently about 40% of LDP diet members are 2nd or 3rd generation politicians)

[I personally think this scandal, even if it proves to be true, would not have been, in isolation, enough to tip Abe over the edge. I think that he has been told by people like Koizumi and Mori, and also by GWB that they aren’t going to stand by him any longer. Note the change in GWB’s language at the APEC summit, compared to previous meetings where he was clearly more buddy-buddy with his lapdog Shinzo]

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