A special adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe whom a former top education ministry bureaucrat has named as a "key person" in a favoritism scandal has denied that he urged the education ministry to speed up the processing of a new veterinary school plan for a school operator headed by a close friend of Abe.
Hiroto Izumi, a special adviser to Abe, told an out-of-session meeting of the House of Representatives Committee on Budget on July 24 that he did not tell the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to quickly process the plans by Kake Educational Institution by telling former Vice Education Minister Kihei Maekawa that he was speaking "on behalf of the prime minister," as Maekawa has testified.
While admitting to meeting with Maekawa at the prime minister's office on Sept. 9 last year, Izumi, who was speaking in public about the scandal for the first time, flatly rejected Maekawa's claim.
"If we ever discussed something so extreme, I would definitely remember it, but I don't recall (having such a discussion) at all. Therefore, I never said it," Izumi said.
When he was further grilled by opposition Democratic Party lawmaker Hiroshi Ogushi, however, Izumi toned down and said, "I don't think I said it."
Izumi also told the July 24 meeting that he learned Abe and Kotaro Kake, head of Kake Educational Institution, were friends in March this year, when media organizations started covering the scandal.
Maekawa stood by his claims during the same July 24 Diet meeting.
"Mr. Izumi told me that he was 'speaking on behalf of the prime minister because he can't say it himself,'" Maekawa said.
The former vice minister also said he was aware of Abe and Kake's relationship and he was convinced that Izumi was talking about the Kake group. Maekawa also disclosed that he and Izumi met on Sept. 29 and Oct. 17.
In addition, Maekawa revealed that Isao Kiso, then special adviser to the Cabinet and board member of the Kake Educational Institution, suggested to him on Aug. 26 that the education ministry should just follow decisions made by the government's Council on National Strategic Special Zones.