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Finance Ministry to say Sagawa told officials to falsify docs on favoritism scandal

Nobuhisa Sagawa (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The Finance Ministry is set to announce next week that its former senior bureaucrat ordered the falsification of ministry documents on the hugely discounted sale of state-owned land to school operator Moritomo Gakuen, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife Akie had been named honorary principal of the primary school the Osaka-based Moritomo had planned to open on the property in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, and the sale has been subject to allegations of favoritism. It emerged earlier this year that Finance Ministry documents regarding the sale had been altered, including omitting references to Akie and to prominent politicians.

The determination about the role of Nobuhisa Sagawa, who headed the ministry's Financial Bureau when the falsifications were made, is based on an internal investigation. The ministry is likely to release a report on the probe, as well as reveal the punishments it intends to mete out to officials involved, as early as June 4. Sagawa was later promoted to the head of the National Tax Agency but has since resigned. He was also punished by the ministry for "causing confusion" to Diet deliberations.

Multiple officials at the Kinki Local Finance Bureau in Osaka, which negotiated the discounted land deal, told ministry investigators that Sagawa instructed them to change the documents that included records of the talks with former Moritomo chief Yasunori Kagoike. Sagawa has apparently not confirmed he did so, but the ministry appears to have decided that the officials had understood that Sagawa had told them to make the falsifications.

According to ministry officials, the documents were changed in response to Sagawa's Diet testimonies from February of last year and later to make sure that the documents did not contradict what Sagawa had said to lawmakers.

Opposition lawmakers are alleging that the prime minister or his wife used their influence so that Kagoike, who claimed to know them, was able to receive favorable treatment from the Finance Ministry in the land deal. The premier has repeatedly denied that is the case.

(Japanese original by Daisuke Oka and Mikako Yokoyama, Business News Department)

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