Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Japanese prosecutors are investigating former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in connection with unrecorded dinner expenditures, but the former premier has repeatedly denied knowledge of allegations.
The Special Investigation Department of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors' Office has requested an explanation from Abe regarding claims his office subsidized dinners at luxury hotels for his political supporters, Kyodo News and NHK reported Thursday.
The dinners took place on the eve of a publicly funded cherry blossom viewing party. Abe has previously been criticized for using the annual party in 2019 as an election campaign event and for inviting thousands of his supporters.
According to Kyodo, Japanese prosecutors say an Abe secretary underreported costs by about $380,000. Sources also told the news service attendees paid only about $48 per head at a five-star hotel where costs can be more than $105 per person. Abe's office paid on average $9,600 at the annual dinner every year to compensate for the shortfall, sources say. Such actions violate Japan's Political Funds Control Act, according to reports.
Abe resigned in September, paving the way for current Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who served under Abe as chief cabinet secretary. The investigation could "deal a blow" to Suga, who has vowed to continue Abe's policies and prepare Japan for the rescheduled Summer Olympics.
The former prime minister is offering few comments, telling reporters last week his office is "fully cooperating with the investigation."
"I can't say anything more than that at this stage," he said.
Takamori Yoshikawa, a former agriculture minister under Abe, is also under investigation, the Mainichi Shimbun reported Thursday.
Yoshikawa allegedly received about $48,000 in bribes from an egg producer.
On Wednesday Yoshikawa said he was in a hospital for an irregular heartbeat and is taking some time to "concentrate on treatment," according to the report.