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Kagoike blasts Moritomo Gakuen search as 'national policy'

Former Moritomo Gakuen Chairman Yasunori Kagoike, right foreground, appears before members of the news media at his home in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, on the morning of June 20, 2017. (Mainichi)

TOYONAKA, Osaka -- The day after prosecutors began a raid on the offices of nationalist school operator Moritomo Gakuen, its former chief Yasunori Kagoike called a news conference at his home here on June 20 to lambaste the search as "national policy."

The forcible search of the private school operator's offices as well as Kagoike's house was conducted by the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office's special investigations unit over suspicions that Kagoike, 64, defrauded the prefectural government of subsidies for Moritomo Gakuen's Tsukamoto Kindergarten. The school operator first came under scrutiny earlier this year after it was revealed it had purchased state-owned land in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, at a vastly discounted price for a new elementary school, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife Akie Abe was listed as honorary principal.

Appearing in a suit and tie before about 30 reporters at the June 20 news conference, Kagoike denied "any intention to fool anyone" over the kindergarten subsidies, though he added that he was "resigned to being arrested." Though investigators had been in his home until early that morning, the former Moritomo Gakuen chairman appeared well-rested and composed, and spoke for about 30 minutes.

Kagoike stated that he was "deeply uncomfortable" about the fact that the search began right after Abe told an evening news conference that his government would seek to regain "public trust" lost over favoritism allegations against him. Regarding the discounted Toyonaka land purchase, Kagoike said that it was "the main thread in this story," and that "Prime Minister Abe's intentions were certainly involved. If the main thread was addressed, it would be the Abes' being searched. I hope the special investigations unit gets moving on that."

Meanwhile, regarding suspicions that he defrauded the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of support funds over the new elementary school, Kagoike insisted, "It was all spearheaded by the design firm." On the Osaka Prefectural subsidies, he said, "I'm the one who filled in all the applications," but added that he had no intention of taking money illegally.

"There were points on which I fell short," Kagoike said.

The search of the Moritomo Gakuen headquarters at Tsukamoto Kindergarten took about 11 hours, wrapping up at around 6 a.m. on June 20. Prosecutors carted off some 100 cardboard boxes of materials.

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