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Gist of interpellations at Upper House Budget Committee, March 14, 2018

The following is the gist of interpellations at the House of Councillors Budget Committee on March 14, 2018:

 

Moritomo Gakuen affair

 

Committee Chair Genjiro Kaneko (Liberal Democratic Party [LDP]): We will ask Director General Mitsuru Ota of the Finance Ministry’s Financial Bureau to give an explanation.

 

Ota: The act of submitting altered documents that resulted in confusion in Diet interpellations cannot help being criticized as disrespect of the Diet. I offer our sincere apologies.

 

Kaneko: This was an outrageous act. We ask for thoroughgoing measures after an investigation is made.

 

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso: This is truly regrettable. I will make utmost efforts to take the necessary measures.

 

Shoji Nishida (LDP): Did you or Prime Minister Shinzo Abe give instructions to alter the documents?

 

Abe: No.

 

Aso: No, never.

 

Nishida: I don’t think it was necessary to delete Mrs. Akie Abe’s name.

 

Abe: Even the original versions of the documents before alteration show that my wife and I were not involved in the sale of land.

 

Nishida: One of the unaltered documents says that a Moritomo Gakuen official stated that Mrs. Abe had commented that, “This is a good piece of land, so please go ahead [with the plan].”

 

Abe: I verified with my wife. She said she had not said anything like that. This was probably a remark by former Moritomo President Yasunori Kagoike.

 

Nishida: The alteration of documents was done by the Finance Ministry for information manipulation.

 

Aso: The main purpose was probably to eliminate contradictions with the responses given to the Diet by National Tax Agency Commissioner Nobuhisa Sagawa, who was then head of the Financial Bureau, and to avoid misunderstanding. It is clear that this was not done out of consideration for anybody.

 

Abe: As the head of the administration, I acutely feel the responsibility. I will make all possible efforts to revamp the organization after the whole truth is uncovered. I would also like Mr. Aso to work in that direction.

 

Tatsuo Hirano (LDP): When did the Finance Ministry admit the document tampering?

 

Ota: We were able to verify the original documents after receiving copies from the investigative authorities on March 10.

 

Shinichi Yokoyama (Komeito): Was it impossible to stop the document tampering?

 

Ota: This is an organizational issue. We will conduct a thorough investigation. The ministry will not be able to get back on its feet unless it is purged of all its defects.

 

Yokoyama: What happened first, Sagawa’s Diet responses or the alteration?

 

Ota: The documents were altered several times before they were finalized. My understanding is that the Diet responses came first.

 

Katsuo Yakura (Komeito): I would think you were aware of this earlier.

 

Ota: We should have presented [the original documents] sooner. We thought that we would be misunderstood if we did not verify things properly before presenting everything.

 

Yakura: Can you state categorically that Mr. Sagawa was not involved?

 

Ota: I think Mr. Sagawa must have been heavily involved. However, we are in the process of investigating who did what.

 

Daisuke Katayama (Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party]): It is important for Mr. Sagawa to tell the whole truth in the Diet.

 

Abe: We hope you also take into consideration the fact that he has resigned. But [he can be summoned] if there is a request from the Diet.

 

Michiyo Yakushiji (Independents Club): Have there not been similar cases in the past?

 

Abe: We must take to heart the fact that we have given rise to such suspicions.

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