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Editorial: Diet needs to probe truth about Kake scandal after new docs emerge

Yet more documents underscoring serious problems in connection with the establishment of a veterinary school by Kake Educational Institution have come to light.

According to documents the Ehime Prefectural Government submitted to the Diet, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with the educational institution's head, Kotaro Kake, on Feb. 25, 2015, and received an explanation on the establishment of the veterinary school.

If this is true, then the development conflicts with Abe's statement in the Diet that he first learned about the project on Jan. 20, 2017, and his previous explanations denying any personal involvement in the project will collapse.

At the time of the alleged meeting, the city of Niigata had already proposed setting up a veterinary school as a national strategic special zone project. The latest document suggests that Kake Educational Institution requested the meeting out of a sense of danger of being overtaken by the Niigata Municipal Government.

During the meeting, Abe is said to have described Kake's project as "good," and Tadao Yanase, then executive secretary to Prime Minister Abe, is said to have told the institution to submit relevant documents.

A month later, on March 24, officials from Kake Educational Institution and the city of Imabari in Ehime Prefecture met with Yanase at the prime minister's office, which led to another meeting with Yanase on April 2 that prefectural government officials also attended. In prefectural documents, Yanase was quoted multiple times as saying that the plan was a "matter concerning the prime minister."

Yanase has admitted that he met with Kake officials on a total of three occasions. It makes sense that the meeting between the prime minister and Kake would result in the prime minister's secretary frequently meeting with officials of Kake -- a specific business operator.

It has also emerged that in mid-February, ahead of the meeting, Kake officials sought to talk with Katsunobu Kato, a then deputy chief Cabinet secretary under Abe "to step up efforts to lobby the prime minister's office." Kato now serves as minister of health, labor and welfare. Considering that Kato has admitted to this meeting, the explanation recorded in the prefectural documents appears rational.

Prime Minister Abe, however, has denied that the meeting took place. There is no record of a meeting in the records of the prime minister's movements at the time, but there are passageways within the prime minister's office that the media can't check, so this does not serve as evidence that there was no meeting.

Kake Educational Institution has released a statement denying that the meeting took place. Prefectural government documents, however, state that the prefecture received a report from the school operator on the meeting. The truth can lie in only one of three places: Either the school operator gave a false report to the prefectural government, or the prefectural government cooked up the story of a meeting, or the prime minister is lying.

As head of the government, the prime minister should respect documents created by local bodies. They are not something that can be swept away without a clear basis for doing so.

The latest documents to emerge were submitted by the prefectural government at the request of the House of Councillors Budget Committee. The Diet, which received these documents, has a responsibility to probe the truth.

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