Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has expressed regret over inaccurate statements he made about a scandal tied to his office, but claimed he was unaware of any wrongdoing. Prosecutors declined to charge the ex-premier.
The apology came after the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office indicted Abe’s longtime aide for not disclosing fees and payments for dinner receptions held for the ex-prime minister’s supporters between 2016 and 2019. Under Japanese law, politicians are prohibited from giving gifts to constituents.
Speaking before a parliamentary committee on Thursday, Abe said that he felt “morally responsible” for the scandal, even while claiming that the potentially criminal activity happened without his knowledge.
“I reflect on this deeply and apologize from my heart to the citizens and to all lawmakers,” he said.
Abe’s statements to parliament about the scandal reportedly contradicted the findings of investigators at least 118 times. However, prosecutors ultimately decided there was not enough evidence to press charges against the former leader.
The scandal emerged after opposition lawmakers noted that a lavish dinner in 2018 hosted by Abe only charged a 5,000 yen ($48) fee, suggesting that the ex-premier’s office subsidized the party.
Abe resigned from office in August, citing health reasons. He claimed that an inflammatory bowel disease from which he has suffered for many years, ulcerative colitis, was worsening and that he could no longer carry out his duties. However, many speculated at the time that he may have been motivated to leave office because of the emergence of the payment scandal.