It was learned on March 13 that the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) had found on March 5 two untampered original copies of the altered documents relating to the Finance Ministry’s approval of government land sale to Moritomo Gakuen (in Osaka City). The ministry reported this to the Kantei.
The Kantei ordered the Finance Ministry to conduct further investigations on the grounds that “there is strong suspicion that documents have been altered,” but the ministry persisted in claiming that there was no document alteration until copies of the documents were received from the prosecutors.
Copies of the documents in question were kept at the MLIT’s Osaka Regional Civil Aviation Bureau, which has jurisdiction over the land at issue. On March 2, the MLIT received copies of the altered documents from the Finance Ministry after Asahi Shimbun filed the first report on the suspected document tampering on that day. It noticed the discrepancies upon comparing the copies with the documents in its possession.
The MLIT provided copies of the documents in its safekeeping to the Kantei on March 5 and reported that “there is strong suspicion of alteration.” The Kantei ordered the Finance Ministry to conduct further investigations, but the ministry’s response was: “All 27 officials at the Kinki Finance Bureau involved with the documents were questioned but no proof of alteration was found.” The Kantei was unconvinced, so the Finance Ministry was ordered to expand its probe to ministry officials in Tokyo.
The Liberal Democratic Party leadership also summoned Koji Yano, chief of the Finance Minister’s Secretariat for questioning, but he provided the same answer given to the Kantei. The ministry also presented the altered documents when it provided its explanation to the Diet on March 8.
The Finance Ministry did not admit that the documents had been altered until the early morning of March 10, shortly following the resignation of National Tax Agency Commissioner Nobuhisa Sagawa to take responsibility for the incident, after the prosecutors’ scrutiny of the Kinki bureau’s computers uncovered the original documents. The Finance Ministry finally admitted that its Financial Bureau masterminded the document tampering.
MLIT Minister Keiichi Ishii told a news conference on March 13: “We told the Finance Ministry on March 5 that there were discrepancies between the documents we had and those made public and gave them copies of our documents.” He added: “The alteration of the documents granting approval is truly regrettable.”
Meanwhile, the Board of Audit also stated at a hearing held by the opposition parties on March 12 that it had been aware of the discrepancies between the two ministries’ documents. When inquiries were made at the time of its audits last year, the Finance Ministry explained that the documents that the ministry provided were the “final versions.”