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Local finance bureau discloses docs on gov't land sale to Moritomo Gakuen

A building that was intended to house an elementary school operated by Moritomo Gakuen is seen in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, in this Nov. 22, 2017 file photo. The land has been returned to the government. (Mainichi)

The Finance Ministry's Kinki Local Finance Bureau disclosed documents detailing in-house exchanges ahead of the heavily discounted sale of a state-owned land lot to Osaka-based school operator Moritomo Gakuen in 2016, despite earlier denials that such documents existed.

The bureau disclosed the documents to the Mainichi Shimbun on Jan. 19 in response to an information disclosure request filed in September 2017. The bureau had previously declined to give detailed accounts of the land sale negotiations in the Diet on the grounds that it had "discarded the records."

The documents comprise "inquiry slips" and "consultation records" that were created by the bureau between March and May 2016. In the documents, a bureau official in charge of state land sales chronicled the negotiations with Moritomo Gakuen representatives. The official also recorded inquiries they made to an official in charge of legal affairs over whether there were any legal problems in the government's response to the matter, as well as the reply.

According to a document dated March 24, 2016, Moritomo Gakuen officials claimed that waste had been found on the state-owned property that the school operator had leased for the construction of an elementary school -- set to open in April 2017 -- and demanded that the bureau take measures.

"We would be in trouble if the opening of the school was delayed," a Moritomo official is quoted as saying. The school operator then requested that the lot be sold at a low price, stating, "We would like to settle the matter by acquiring the property at a cheap price," and, "If that is impossible, we will have no choice but to suspend our project and demand compensation."

In response, the bureau official in charge of land sales asked a colleague in legal affairs about what legal responsibility the government would face as the lessor. The legal affairs official responded that "it is desirable to swiftly decide on a policy and take measures to avoid a breach of duty," saying that the school operator may cancel the contract and claim compensation.

According to a document dated April 22, 2016, a lawyer representing Moritomo Gakuen said, "We will not demand compensation if we can acquire the property at an agreed-upon price." In response, the land sale staff at the bureau asked the legal staff about how to dodge a possible compensation claim by Moritomo. The legal staffer then amended a draft contract for the sale of the property in question.

It emerged earlier that the bureau had sold the state-owned property in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, to the school operator in June 2016 for 134 million yen, granting a some 800 million yen discount for waste removal costs.

When reached by the Mainichi for comment on Jan. 19, the bureau stated, "We do not deem the documents as records of our interviews and negotiations (with Moritomo Gakuen). We have disclosed the documents as those created and saved by our bureau in relation to our records of interviews and negotiations."

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