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Former Abe aide admits to meetings

Jiji Press TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Tadao Yanase, former executive secretary to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, admitted Thursday that he had met with officials of the school operator at the center of an Abe-linked favoritism scandal over a veterinary school project.

Giving unsworn testimony before the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives, Yanase said he met with officials of Kake Educational Institution, headed by an old friend of Abe, at the Prime Minister’s Office on three occasions in 2015.

Yanase said he told the Kake officials at the time that deregulation to realize a new veterinary school opening was “a matter that the prime minister will consider swiftly.” But he denied having received any instruction from Abe on the matter at the time.

In April this year, the Kake group opened a university faculty of veterinary medicine in a national strategic special zone for deregulation in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, the first such university department established in Japan in 52 years.

Ehime Prefecture has found a memo by a prefectural government official that quoted Yanase as telling Kake as well as Ehime and Imabari government officials on April 2, 2015, that the veterinary school plan was “a matter related to the prime minister.”

Regarding this quote, Yanase, now vice minister for international affairs at the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, told the lower house committee that he was not talking about Kake’s plan in particular, saying, “What I meant to say was understood differently.”

He said that Ehime or Imabari government officials could have been among the people who accompanied the Kake officials to the meetings at the Prime Minister’s Office.

He thus modified his previous explanations, made in a statement released on April 10 this year, that he had no memory of meeting with Ehime or Imabari officials on the veterinary school issue. Yanase has repeatedly said he had never referred to the subject as the prime minister’s matter.

As Yanase has admitted to having met with the Kake officials in 2015, the focus has shifted to the credibility of Abe’s own parliamentary remarks that he had not known about Kake’s veterinary school plan until Jan. 20 last year, when the plan was formally approved by the central government.Speech

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