March 24, 2018

Japanese Prime Minister Caught Up In Land Sale Scandal

13 March 2018, 10:51 | Kara Nash

Japan PM wife's name removed from documents in suspected cronyism scandal-media

Name of Japan PM's wife removed from land sale documents - Kyodo

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his close ally, Finance Minister Taro Aso, are facing growing pressure over a suspected cover-up of a cronyism scandal that has dogged the Premier for more than a year. "We have to make them do so", a protester said.

The controversy has caused the Diet to stall, but Sakakibara said he still wants lawmakers to deliberate on other key issues during the current ordinary session through June, including labor reforms aimed at addressing overworking and exempting certain skilled workers from working-hour regulations.

Abe, now in his sixth year in office, has denied that he or his wife did favors for the school operator, Moritomo Gakuen, and has said he would resign if evidence was found that they had.

Until now... because as the Japanese press reported over the weekend, the Moritomo scandal involving PM Abe's connections with the operators of the right-leaning school implicated in fraud are again roiling markets in Japan.

In the documents, references to Akie, whose role in a school project is suspected to have led to the reduced price, were deleted.

LDP parliamentary affairs official Hiroshi Moriyama told reporters on Monday that he had been briefed by finance ministry officials that documents related to the land sale had been altered but did not comment on the content.

The scandal first emerged early a year ago, but resurfaced after the revelation that official documents related to the sale had been changed. Mr Sagawa was head of the finance ministry department that oversaw the land deal, before being promoted past year to tax agency chief.

The doubts are also putting pressure on Aso to resign.

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Last week, tax agency chief Nobuhisa Sagawa, who formerly oversaw the Finance Ministry bureau dealing with the land sale, resigned from his current post.

The finance ministry admitted on Monday that it had altered official documents surrounding the decision to provide an 85 per cent discount on the appraised value of the land.

The 77-year-old Aso apologised for his ministry's actions but said he had no intention to resign.

But the alterations do fuel suspicion of a cover-up, which could be more damaging to Abe and Aso than the original land sale itself.

Japanese government bonds were steady to slightly weaker on Tuesday though trading was slow as investors anxious whether a scandal engulfing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would grow further to threaten his position and policies.

Aso's backing is vital to Abe's bid for a third term and a key factor in the stability of his administration.

Some LDP members said the saga could undermine the party. "It is inconceivable that the bureaucrats on the spot had such authority (to alter the documents)", said LDP lawmaker Shigeru Ishiba, who has made no secret of his desire to challenge Mr Abe in the party race.

His ruling bloc won a two-thirds "super majority" in an October lower house poll, helped by opposition disarray. Non-support rose to 42 percent and 80 percent said that the matter had not been handled appropriately.

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