Japan PM to replace key government, LDP lawmakers – media reports

TOKYO (Reuters) -Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida plans to make changes to his cabinet and his party executive following media reports that lawmakers received undeclared political funds, the Asahi newspaper reported on Sunday, citing government and party sources.

No one was immediately available at the prime minister’s office to comment on reports published early on Sunday.

Kishida and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are facing mounting scrutiny after allegations that party lawmakers, including high-profile members, may have pocketed more than 100 million yen ($693,000) of fundraising proceeds that were left off the books.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura and LDP’s policy chief Koichi Hagiuda are set to be replaced as they are among those suspected of having failed to declare political funds properly, the Asahi newspaper reported.

The Mainichi newspaper also reported on Sunday that the three were set to be replaced.

No one was immediately available at Matsuno’s office to comment on the report. Nishimura has earlier declined to comment and no one at his office was available to comment on the latest reports. No one was available at Hagiuda’s office on Saturday.

Tokyo prosecutors are looking to investigate lawmakers after the current session of parliament ends on Wednesday, local media reported.

Kyodo news agency on Saturday said there was a plan to reshuffle the cabinet and appoint new party officials. The changes could happen after the end of the parliament session, it said.

The Asahi newspaper and other media said Matsuno is suspected of having failed to declare more than 10 million yen he received in the past five years from the biggest faction in the LDP. Matsuno has declined to comment on the allegations.

Hagiuda told reporters last week that his organisation has handled the matter in accordance with the law, Kyodo reported.

Public support for Kishida’s government has slid to a record low partly due to voter worries over rising costs and looming tax hikes.

($1 = 144.18 yen)

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko, Additional reporting by Yuka Obayashi, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Stephen Coates and Conor Humphries)