Moritomo papers altered, govt admits amid scandal

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Finance Minister Taro Aso, center, enters his office without responding to reporters’ questions at the Finance Ministry on Monday.

Jiji PressTOKYO (Jiji Press) —The government admitted on Monday that Finance Ministry documents related to a contract on the sale of a state land lot to private school operator Moritomo Gakuen at a deep discount were altered in and after late February last year in the wake of the revelation of the controversial deal.

The high-profile scandal involves Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife, Akie, once appointed honorary principal of an elementary school that the nationalist school operator based in Osaka planned to open on the site in question in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture.

Fourteen sets of related documents, including a contract on the lease of the land to Moritomo before the sale, were manipulated at the Financial Bureau of the ministry’s headquarters in Tokyo, according to the government’s report to the Diet.

The original documents included descriptions indicating that Yasunori Kagoike, then head of Moritomo, told the ministry that the group had talks on the land with the Akie Abe side. This part was deleted later, however.

In the initial documents, Kagoike was quoted as saying to an official of the ministry’s Kinki Local Finance Bureau that Akie, who visited the site, told the Moritomo side, “The land plot is a good one, so please go ahead.”

After Akie was appointed to the honorary principal post in September 2015, Moritomo acquired the land plot in June 2016 for ¥134 million after a discount of some ¥800 million for what the ministry side has claimed was the cost of removing buried waste from the site.

“As the head of government, I profoundly feel responsible” for the document fraud, which “could undermine trust in the entire government,” Prime Minister Abe told reporters. “I deeply apologize to the people,” he added.

In the original documents, created by the Kinki finance bureau, the land deal was termed an “exceptional” case. This description, however, was also not seen in papers disclosed to lawmakers after the revelation of the massive discount sale.

Also deleted were descriptions of remarks supportive of the land sale to Moritomo by secretaries of former disaster management minister Yoshitada Konoike, former minister of economy, trade and industry Takeo Hiranuma, the late former internal affairs minister Kunio Hatoyama and Issei Kitagawa, a former member of the House of Councillors.

Prime Minister Abe suggested that there is no need for Finance Minister Taro Aso to resign over the scandal.

“I hope that he will fulfill his responsibility to unravel the whole picture of the misconduct and that he will make every effort to revamp the [ministry’s] organization after everything becomes clear,” Abe said.

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and five other opposition parties, at a meeting of their Diet affairs chiefs on the same day, renewed their demand for sworn testimonies by Akie Abe and Sagawa in the Diet.

“The situation is more serious than we thought,” Kiyomi Tsujimoto of the CDPJ told reporters. The ministry “intentionally altered the documents,” she stressed.Speech

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