Tokyo, March 15
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday morning denied his and his wife’s involvement in the scandal surrounding sale of public land to nationalist school operator Moritomo Gakuen in Osaka, which was offered the land at a steep discount. “Neither my wife and I, nor my office, were involved [in the land sale],” said Abe at the upper house budget committee in response to a question by a member of the House of Councilors from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.He also denied involvement in altering documents linked to the controversial land deal. “I received reports on [March] 11 about the alteration. When you look at the documents before they were altered, it is clear my wife and I were not involved,” Abe said.According to the finance ministry, the name of Abe’s wife, Akie, appeared in the original documents but was later deleted. In particular, deleted passages include remarks made during a 2014 meeting between representatives of the school and local officials, during which the school operator had described Akie visiting the site and saying “go ahead” with plans to build the school.
The revelations pose a growing threat to the prime minister’s legislative agenda and hold on power. Abe said on Wednesday he is “deeply sorry” for the scandal, adding that he “feels responsible as the head of the administration.””We will thoroughly investigate to clarify the entirety of the issue,” he said. “I would like Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aso to fulfill this responsibility,” he added, dispelling speculation among the opposition that Aso will resign.
Alteration of the documents led to the resignation of former National Tax Agency chief Nobuhisa Sagawa, who was was director general of the Ministry of Finance’s Financial Bureau that allegedly doctored the document, according to Aso.
An in-house probe by the ministry found that the names of four lawmakers were removed from the documents after Feb. 2017, when the issue first gained political and national attention.
Tokyo, March 15