Jiji Press TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday defended former executive secretary Tadao Yanase, who in 2015 met people related to the school operator at the center of a favoritism scandal over a veterinary school plan.
At a meeting of the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives, Abe said he did not receive reports from Yanase on the meetings.
The prime minister said he does not usually get reports on matters under development from his executive secretaries unless they are of national importance.
In unsworn testimony before the Diet on Thursday, Yanase admitted meeting people linked to Kake Educational Institution, headed by a friend of Abe, at the prime minister’s office three times in 2015.
Abe claimed that the meetings with the Kake people did not affect discussions by private-sector experts on the plan to open a university faculty of veterinary medicine in a national strategic special deregulation zone in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture.
“I therefore see no problem with the former executive secretary’s meetings,” Abe said.
Again denying his involvement in the school plan, the prime minister stressed it has become clear that no one received any instructions from him over the plan.
The Kake group opened the faculty in question last month, the first such university department launched in Japan in 52 years.
Yanase’s explanations about his meeting on April 2, 2015, with officials of the Kake group and the Ehime prefectural and Imabari municipal governments were different from those given by Ehime Gov. Tokihiro Nakamura.
In the testimony, Yanase did not clearly admit meeting the local government officials, while Nakamura told a news conference on Friday that it was clear the officials met Yanase.
At Monday’s Diet meeting, Abe defended Yanase, saying that the former aide told the truth in the testimony based on his memory of three years ago.
In his testimony, Yanase also denied characterizing the school plan as “a matter related to the prime minister” in the April 2 meeting, as quoted in a memo by an Ehime official.