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Politics

Abe apologizes over 'cherry-blossom party' scandal

Former Japanese prime minister to face questions in parliament on Friday

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologizes during a press conference on Thursday in Tokyo.  (Photo by Konosuke Urata)

TOKYO -- Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologized to the nation on Thursday over allegations his camp illegally paid millions of yen for dinner receptions held for supporters.

"I deeply regret and apologize to the people," Abe said at a news conference.

Prosecutors said Thursday they decided not to charge Abe over the allegations, instead they will issue a summary indictment of one of Abe's state-paid secretaries, Hiroyuki Haikawa, and seek a fine for his alleged failure to keep records of income and expenditures related to the dinner functions.

The scandal over the gatherings at a Tokyo hotel before an annual cherry blossom viewing party has lingered over the tenure of current leader Yoshihide Suga, who is losing support in public opinion polls.

The former prime minister said he had no knowledge of the illegal accounting but apologized for his remarks in parliament that did not match the facts.

"I checked with the office many times and gave answers in parliament that were true in my understanding," he said, adding that "but some of those answers turned out to be false."

"I am aware of the extremely heavy political responsibility," Abe said, vowing to "make every effort to restore the public's trust." He also asked for people's understanding, stating: "I will remember the spirit that I started out with and will continue to fulfill my responsibilities."

Abe will be summoned to parliament Friday to face questions over the issue.

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