Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe bows during a lower house session, over a scandal involving payments for supporters, at the parliament in Tokyo on Dec 25, 2020. The apology came a day after prosecutors said they would not indict him in the case. (PHOTO / JIJI PRESS / AFP)
TOKYO - Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was on Friday corrected statements he had made in parliament, apologising for what he said were mistakes regarding a a political funding scandal that has also cast a pall over the current premier.
Abe said he felt deeply responsible for making repeated false denials that his political funding group had subsidised cherry blossom viewing parties for his supporters, in possible violation of the country's strict political funding laws.
This marks a dramatic reversal of fortunes for Abe, one of the country's political blue bloods, whose grandfather and great-uncle also served as premiers
READ MORE: Former Japan PM Abe apologizes for cherry blossom scandal
Japan's longest-serving leader denied he had known anything about the payments, maintained innocence and pledged to work to regain public trust. The apology came after his secretary was summarily indicted over the issue and fined 1 million yen (US$9,650).
"Even though the accounting procedures happened without my knowledge, I feel morally responsible for what happened," Abe told a parliamentary committee. "I reflect on this deeply and apologise from my heart to the citizens and to all lawmakers.”
Abe also filed corrected political funding reports for the last three years.
This marks a dramatic reversal of fortunes for Abe, one of the country's political blue bloods, whose grandfather and great-uncle also served as premiers. He quit on health grounds in September after serving nearly eight years as prime minister.
The scandal could also damage his successor, Yoshihide Suga, who was Abe's right-hand man throughout his term and has defended his boss in the parliament.
ALSO READ: Kyodo: No action against former PM Abe after prosecutor questioning
Suga, who has been beset by other controversies and seen his support ratings slide less than a year before the next lower house election must be called, also apologised on Thursday for making inaccurate statements.
Abe did not respond to questions from opposition MPs about whether he would take political responsibility for the scandal by resigning as an MP. He struggled to explain why he was able to file detailed updated funding reports even though he says his office does not have the underlying receipts for the parties.
Abe's statements to parliament from the end of 2019 contradicted the findings of the prosecutors at least 118 times, several domestic media reported, citing a parliamentary research bureau.
HONG KONG NEWS