Japan gov't admits altering documents in Abe's wife cronyism scandal

13 March, 2018, 11:21 | Author: Jason Torres
  • Prosecutors have evidence of document tampering

Abe, now in his sixth year in office, had tried to put behind him questions over the sale of state-owned land at a huge discount to a school operator with ties to his wife, Akie.

Abe said he wanted Aso to make every effort to clarify all the facts and ensure such things do not happen again.

Mr Aso was forced to fend off opposition calls to resign on Monday after admitting his ministry altered 14 sets of documents sent to parliament. It is regrettable, and we deeply apologize.

"We will carry out the investigation to make the whole picture clear".

Over 1,000 people gathered in front of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's office in Tokyo on Monday evening, calling for his resignation and that of his close ally Finance Minister Taro Aso over a suspected cronyism coverup. "Please go ahead." The land had been slated for construction of a new school in Osaka, Japan's third-largest city.

How did the Finance Ministry alter the 14 documents in question after news of the scandal broke in February a year ago?

Aso said the documents were doctored to be "coherent" with a speech made in parliament by the head of the tax agency Nobuhisa Sagawa, who stepped down on Friday over the scandal.

One document originally quoted the educational group Moritomo Gakuen as saying that Abe's wife Akie had recommended the primary school project "move forward because it is a good plot of land".

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Abe and his Finance Minister, Taro Aso, face mounting pressure over the scandal, which has resurfaced in recent days with allegations that officials altered key evidence to Parliament. Local media reported that the unnamed person committed suicide.

But even some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have said that blaming bureaucrats is not feasible.

In comments to the Nikkei newspaper, Shinjiro Koizumi, a rising star within the party and a son of Junichiro Koizumi, a former prime minister, said blaming bureaucrats was the equivalent of "cutting off a lizard's tail". He said there was no "smoking gun" showing direct intervention by Abe or his wife.

The alterations "cause a loss of trust in the administration", said Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of the LDP's junior coalition partner, Komeito.

A new poll released by public broadcaster NHK on Tuesday showed support for the Abe government dropped to the lowest since he won a resounding re-election in October. A survey over the weekend by Yomiuri Shimbun found that 80 percent of respondents believed the government was mishandling the Moritomo case.

His family has urged authorities to get to the bottom of the scandal.

"The cover-up is now a bigger issue than the original incident", said Koichi Nakano, a professor at Sophia University. He added that because the opposition had been so divided, it had not been potent enough to challenge Abe. His most cherished long-term goal - to try to change the pacifist clause in the country's constitution - is now probably compromised.

"The involvement of Mrs Abe has deepened". So will the response of the LDP's junior coalition partner, the Komeito party.

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