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Local finance bureau ordered to change Moritomo docs for being 'too detailed': sources

A portion of a Finance Ministry document on the land deal with Moritomo Gakuen is seen. The part that mentions Akie Abe's name has been deleted in the altered version. (Mainichi)

OSAKA -- In the case of the heavily discounted sale of state-owned land to nationalist school operator Moritomo Gakuen, officials from the Finance Ministry's Financial Bureau, among others, have admitted to ordering the Kinki Local Finance Bureau to doctor officially authorized documents related to the sale, investigative sources told the Mainichi Shimbun.

According to the sources, Financial Bureau officials have told the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office's special investigation unit that they ordered that records of the Moritomo case be changed because they believed they were too detailed.

Officials at the Kinki Local Finance Bureau who had drawn up the documents are said to have objected to the orders, saying that changing the contents could be illegal. It appears, however, that in the end they had no choice but to follow orders from ministry headquarters.

In the official documents initially compiled by the Kinki Local Finance Bureau, the names of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife, Akie Abe, who at one time was named the honorary principal of the school that Moritomo was preparing to set up on the land in question, and the names of multiple politicians were mentioned, and the land sale negotiation process was described in extensive detail. Such information, however, was erased from records between February and April 2017.

Then Financial Bureau Director-General Nobuhisa Sagawa, who was later appointed National Tax Agency chief, repeatedly told the Diet last year that land negotiation records had already been discarded, and denied Akie Abe's influence in the case. The Financial Bureau is believed to have devised a scheme to tamper with official documents in order to maintain consistency between Sagawa's Diet testimony and the official documents.

Investigative sources said Sagawa has stated that "a junior staff member told me in advance (about the doctoring), and I endorsed it." Financial Bureau officials are believed to have sent emails to officials at the Kinki Local Finance Bureau who worked on land sale negotiations with Moritomo Gakuen telling them to make changes to their official documents, arguing that the negotiation records and the mention of Akie Abe were "excessive." The sources said some Financial Bureau officials claimed that they saw no problem with ordering the modifications, since they were "simply changing the documents back to a usual format."

There have been a series of criminal complaints filed not just against Sagawa, but Kinki Local Finance Bureau officials, for creating false official documents and other charges. However, because the sale method and sale price remained unchanged even after the documents were doctored, the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office's special investigation unit is planning not to press charges against Sagawa and the other officials.

"Ordinarily these officially authorized documents are succinct, and do not include the names of politicians," Hosei University professor and former Finance Ministry bureaucrat Kazumasa Oguro explained. "But the fact that the Kinki Local Finance Bureau wrote about the case in such detail hints at the likelihood that it wanted to keep extensive records in case problems over the land sale popped up in the future, or because the case was indeed a very special case."

(Japanese original by Shiho Miyajima and Masayuki Takashima, Osaka City News Department)

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