Tokyo, June 24 (Jiji Press)–Ministry of Finance officials reiterated Thursday that the former and current prime ministers were not involved in the high-profile official document tampering scandal at the elite ministry of Japan.
At a meeting of executives of the finance committees of both parliamentary chambers, the ministry submitted the “Akagi file,” which records how the ministry’s official documents on the sale of state land at a huge discount to school operator Moritomo Gakuen, once linked to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife, Akie, were tampered in 2017.
The sale was undertaken by the ministry’s Kinki Regional Finance Bureau.
A member of the leading opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan pointed out that the documents were not able to be falsified without instructions by superiors such as Abe and then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, now prime minister.
At a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on Feb. 17, 2017, Abe said he would resign as prime minister and a member of the Lower House if his or his wife’s alleged involvement in the dubious land sale proved true.
Five days later, Nobuhisa Sagawa, the ministry’s Financial Bureau director-general at the time, briefed Suga on the matter. Sagawa issued his first document tampering instruction on Feb. 26 the same year, according to the file.
But at the closed-door executives meeting Monday, as well as at a hearing held jointly by opposition parties the same day, the MOF officials, including Eiji Chatani, director-general of the Minister’s Secretariat, repeated their argument that Sagawa “shaped the course” without making any report to the finance minister or the vice finance minister.
Opposition lawmakers at the joint hearing demanded that the ministry revise a report on its investigation into the scandal so it will clearly state that Sagawa instructed the document manipulation.
The 518-page file, including emails exchanged between the ministry’s Financial Bureau and the Kinki Regional Finance Bureau, was compiled by Toshio Akagi, an official at the local finance bureau who committed suicide after protesting the misconduct.
Initially, the ministry declined to clarify whether the file exists or not but admitted its existence in May this year in a damages lawsuit filed by Akagi’s wife, Masako, against the government.
By showing the file to opposition parties, the ruling camp aims to put an end to the MOF scandal before the Tokyo governor’s race in July and the Lower House election, expected to be held by autumn.
The opposition bloc, for its part, plans to keep grilling the ruling parties and the government, seeking explanation by Finance Minister Taro Aso at meetings of the two parliamentary committees.