Osaka, Dec. 15 (Jiji Press)–The Japanese government suddenly switched to accepting the plaintiff’s claims Wednesday in a damages lawsuit over a high-profile document-tampering scandal involving the Finance Ministry.
The move concluded the suit over the scandal, in which Toshio Akagi, working at the ministry’s Kinki Local Finance Bureau, committed suicide in March 2018 at age 54 after being allegedly forced to tamper with documents related to the discount sale of state land to school operator Moritomo Gakuen.
The government had consistently rejected the claims. The sudden change angered the plaintiff, Akagi’s 50-year-old widow, Masako, who said an opportunity to find out the truth has been lost.
She filed the damages suit with Osaka District Court against the central government and Nobuhisa Sagawa, then director-general of the ministry’s Financial Bureau, who is said to have ordered the document-tampering. Sagawa also served as commissioner of the National Tax Agency.
In Wednesday’s court proceedings, the government said in writing that it has concluded that it is “reasonable to acknowledge our responsibility under the state compensation law” over the suicide of Akagi, whose workload increased as a result of the alleged tampering order.
The government also said that it decided to accept Masako’s demands after reviewing additional claims by her side.
The government will pay the requested damages of 107 million yen.
According to an attorney of the plaintiff, the government made the unusual move of switching to accept the claims without informing the court beforehand.
Before ending the suit, the court said that only through civil procedures would the truth be found out. Masako protested to the government’s attorney, but to no avail.
Meanwhile, another lawsuit filed against Sagawa seeking 5.5 million yen in damages will continue.
In the concluded suit, five oral arguments had been made since it was filed in March 2020.
In June this year, the government disclosed the “Akagi file” documents on details of the scandal left by the deceased ministry official.
Based on the documents, the plaintiff side claimed that the government and Sagawa were responsible for the case. It made a request for disclosure of additional documents.
“This isn’t a problem that can be resolved by paying money,” Masako said angrily at a press conference in the western city of Osaka.
Teruyuki Ogoshi, a lawyer representing the plaintiff, criticized the government for violating the principle of faith and trust, saying that the government’s action was “insincere and very mean.”
“We’ve reached the conclusion that the government is clearly responsible as the suicide was committed after excessive mental and physical burdens continued due to public duty,” Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki told a press conference in Tokyo.
“We express our deep sorrow over Akagi’s death, and we extend our heartfelt apologies to the bereaved family,” he added.
The decision means that the government has fully acknowledged its liability for damages, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.