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Docs obtained by Mainichi mention 'special nature' of Moritomo land deal

This photo shows part of a Finance Ministry doument obtained by the Mainichi Shimbun (highlight added). (Mainichi)

Amid questions over the possible doctoring of government documents concerning the heavily discounted sale of land to school operator Moritomo Gakuen, the Mainichi Shimbun has obtained copies of separate documents mentioning the "special nature" of the transaction.

    The documents are not among those that the Ministry of Finance earlier submitted to the Diet, and were obtained through a freedom-of-information request to the ministry's Kinki Local Finance Bureau. The papers contained phrases such as "in light of the special nature of this case" and "suggest a price (for the land) to the school," which were absent from documents on the deal that were submitted to the Diet in 2017, possibly calling the process by which the documents were created into question.

    The phrase "special nature" appears in a June 2016 finance bureau document sent to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism's Osaka Regional Civil Aviation Bureau mentioning the plan to sell state-owned land to Moritomo Gakuen for 134 million yen -- about 800 million yen cheaper than the appraised value. Under the heading, "Consultation between the finance and civil aviation bureaus," it is written, "In light of the special nature of this matter, any government action to be taken based on the sale and purchase contract after its conclusion will be carried out following consultations between the Kinki Local Finance Bureau and the Osaka Regional Civil Aviation Bureau, which will take place if necessary."

    In addition, in a May 2016 document at the time the finance bureau informed Moritomo Gakuen of the proposed price of the land sale, there are phrases such as "having received a request from the school to buy the land as soon as possible" and "the price (of the land) will be presented to the school."

    However, none of these statements appeared in the documents finalizing the land sale that the Finance Ministry submitted to the Diet in May 2017, and Moritomo Gakuen's "request" to buy the land quickly is described as "offer" in the submitted documents.

    The Asahi Shimbun reported in its March 2 morning edition that phrases such as "special nature of this case" and "will present the price" appeared in the documents at the time of the land sale contract, and that there is a possibility that the documents were altered sometime after late February 2017, prompting questions about the Finance Ministry's actions in the Diet.

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