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PM Abe's wife steps down as honorary principal of controversial school

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe raises his voice in response to jeering at him from a legislator with the largest opposition Democratic Party during a House of Representatives Budget Committee session on Feb. 24, 2017. (Mainichi)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Diet on Feb. 24 that his wife Akie has stepped down as honorary principal of an elementary school that a scandal-hit corporation is scheduled to open in Osaka Prefecture this coming April.

"We've told the group that my wife would resign as honorary principal because her assumption of the position would cause trouble to children at the school as well as their parents," he told a House of Representatives Budget Committee session on Feb. 24. He was responding to questions by Nobuyuki Fukushima, a member of the largest opposition Democratic Party.

The Moritomo Gakuen corporation is under fire for buying a state-owned land lot in the Osaka Prefecture city of Toyonaka at a price far lower than its appraised value to build the school there.

Abe also said he has lodged a protest with Moritomo Gakuen for collecting donations in the name of Shinzo Abe Kinen (commemorative) Elementary School.

With regard to the name of the school, Abe told the session, "I was really startled to see a letter calling for donations." He then said he lodged a protest with the corporation for using his name for the elementary school even though he had repeatedly resisted, saying it was "extremely regrettable."

The prime minister said a representative of the corporation responded by apologizing to him over the use of his name.

The prime minister reiterated that neither he, his wife nor his office was ever involved in the questionable land deal.

Nobuhisa Sagawa, director-general of the Finance Ministry's Financial Bureau, told the same Diet session that the ministry discarded records of negotiations between Moritomo Gakuen and the ministry's local bureau over the land sale after the contract was signed in June 2016.

"The conclusion of the contract represented an end to the process of the land deal. Therefore, no record of the case exists," he said.

Regarding the approximately 800 million yen deducted from the appraised price of the land lot to cover the cost of removing waste buried at the site, Sagawa said, "We sold the property at an appropriate price. We have no duty under the contract to confirm how the corporation removed the waste. Since the school is under construction, the school corporation should decide on how to deal with the remaining waste."

Sagawa made the remarks in response to questions by Takeshi Miyamoto of the Japanese Communist Party.

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