Japan's ex-tax chief denies Abe involvement in land scandal

29 March, 2018, 02:34 | Author: Norman Carr
  • Abe's popularity slides following land sale scandal

Nobuhisa Sagawa, director-general of the financial bureau of the finance ministry at the time of the land sale, told Japanese parliament he is the chief agent responsible for the falsified documents, The Japan Times reported Tuesday.

The scandal relates to the 2016 sale of state land to a right-wing school operator, Moritomo Gakuen group in Osaka, at one-seventh of its appraised price.

The Japanese government is considering arranging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the United States for April 17-19, sources told Jiji Press on Tuesday.

He also declined to say who chose to remove from the original documents all references to first lady Akie Abe, whose connection to the former Moritomo Gakuen director has been floated as the reason behind the sharp discount for the state-owned land in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture. He also served as prime minister from 2006-07.

The row deepened when the finance ministry admitted official records of the sale were altered, with references to Abe, his wife, and Finance Minister Taro Aso scrubbed.

Abe, Akie and Aso have all denied their involvement and any wrongdoing in the influence-peddling scandal.

On Monday he pledged a "thorough investigation so that everything can come to light".

Several times a year ago, Sagawa told MPs the price of the land "was properly calculated" and stressed there was no evidence of political pressure in the sale.

The opposition camp, however, are gearing up to summon Akie Abe and others to give testimony soon in a legitimate bid to conclude the protracted scandal that has seen the approval rating for Abe's cabinet plummeting, according to recent media polls.

Abe said Sagawa's words reinforced his repeated denials of giving instructions to falsify documents related to a dubious land sale.

The affair took a tragic turn earlier in the month when an official from the finance ministry apparently involved in the scandal took his own life.

While support for opposition parties remains weak, it is rising, and public anger has cast a shadow over Abe's prospects of winning a third term as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in a September election.

Abe's support slid to 32.6%, down 11.7 percentage points compared to last month, the survey found.



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