Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe corrected his statements in parliament on Friday, apologizing for mistakes made in relation to a political funding scandal that also dwarfed the current prime minister.
Abe said he feels deeply responsible for repeatedly denying that his political funding group subsidized cherry blossom viewing parties for his supporters, which may violate the country’s strict political funding laws.
Japan’s senior leader said he knew nothing about the payments and has pledged to work to regain public confidence. The apology came after his secretary was charged on Thursday and fined 1 million yen ($ 9,650).
“Although the accounting process took place without my knowledge, I feel morally responsible for what happened,” Abe told a parliamentary committee. “I think deeply about it and I apologize from the bottom of my heart to the citizens and all legislators.”
Abe also submitted revised policy funding reports for the past three years.
The public apology marks a sharp reversal of happiness for Abe, a political blue whose grandfather and great-uncle also served as prime minister. He resigned as prime minister on health grounds in September after serving as prime minister for nearly eight years.
The scandal threatens to harm his successor Yoshihide Suga, who was Abe’s right-hand man during his tenure and defended his former boss in parliament.
Suga, who has been beset by other controversy and seen his support ratings dip less than a year before the next election in the House of Commons, has apologized for inaccurate statements.
Abe did not respond to questions from opposition MPs as to whether his resignation as MP would take political responsibility for the scandal. He went out of his way to explain why he was able to submit detailed updated funding reports, despite saying his office does not have the underlying supporting evidence for the parties.
Abe’s statements to parliament at the end of 2019 contradicted the prosecutor’s findings at least 118 times, several domestic media reported, citing a parliamentary research office.
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