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Abe secretaries, supporters questioned over 2018 dinner function

Ex-prime minister has denied allegations of office wrongdoing over billing

Then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is seen with attendees at a cherry blossom-viewing party in April 2019. Allegations over billing for a supporters' dinner the night before a similar party in 2018 continue to dog Abe, who resigned from office over a health problem in September.

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Prosecutors have questioned secretaries and officials of support groups of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over allegations that Abe's office illegally subsidized costs for supporters to attend a 2018 dinner function, investigative sources said Monday.

The voluntary questioning came after a criminal complaint was filed in May against Abe and his aides, claiming the former premier's office violated the election law and political funds control law in connection with the event held at a Tokyo hotel on the eve of a publicly funded annual cherry blossom viewing party in April 2018.

About 800 people attended the dinner function at Hotel New Otani, including many voters in Abe's constituency in Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan. The participants were charged 5,000 yen ($48) each, even though such events at the hotel normally cost at least 11,000 yen each.

According to the complaint filed by around 660 lawyers and legal scholars, Abe and the two senior officials of his support group conspired to cover around 6,000 yen per participant to make up for the shortfall, totaling 4.8 million yen.

Abe, who stepped down as premier in September due to health problems, has denied the allegation, saying, "The expenses were paid by the participants themselves and my office neither had revenues from or spending for the event. The hotel set the price for the party."

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