The Secretary General of Japan's main Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Shigeru Ishiba, said that his political organization had received donations from a South Korean national, local media reported Thursday.
According to the reports, Ishiba's organization received 750, 000 yen (about 9,457 U.S. dollars) over a five year period ending in 2011, from a personal friend of Ishiba who operates three companies in Japan.
The political funds control law in Japan strictly prohibits politicians from receiving political donations from foreign nationals, to prevent foreign powers having influence on domestic politics.
Ishiba, a former defense minister, claimed that his organization had accepted the donation as they were unaware that the donor was non-Japanese, despite Ishiba describing the donor as being a long-time, personal friend.
While claiming that the donations were not an attempt to manipulate his office, Ishiba told a newsconference that as the donor used a Japanese name he had no idea he was in fact a South Korean national, despite the donor being a prominent business owner in the Tottori region of Japan.
Following an internal investigation triggered by a similar funding scandal involving ex-foreign minister Seiji Maehara, who resigned over the affair, Ishiba's office said it returned the illicit funds to the Korean national in 2011 as it was aware that knowingly accepting the funds would have been in contravention of Japan's political funds laws.
Ishiba in September ran for the LDP's top post, but was beaten by Shinzo Abe who served as prime minister between 2006 and 2007.
Abe, who will almost certainly become prime minister again if the LDP oust the ruling Democratic Party of Japan in a general election pegged for this year, selected Ishiba to serve as the party's No. 2.
Ishiba, a graduate of Keio University and a self-proclaimed believer in UFO's, has himself been a vocal critic of other politicians who have received illegal donations from foreigners .
His involvement in this scandal may lead to serious repercussions forthwith and at a minimum will be a black mark on his political career going forward.