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Ex-Moritomo head insists PM's wife had major influence on discounted state land sale

Yasunori Kagoike, former head of school operator Moritomo Gakuen, talks to reporters in Osaka on June 6, 2018. (Mainichi)

OSAKA -- The former head of Moritomo Gakuen, the school operator at the center of a favoritism scandal involving its heavily discounted purchase of state land, has told reporters that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife Akie had a major influence on the deal.

Yasunori Kagoike, 65, also said during a June 6 interview in Osaka that Finance Ministry officials surmised the prime minister's and his wife's intentions when they doctored internal documents on the land deal. Akie Abe was at one point named honorary principal of the elementary school set to open on the property concerned.

Kagoike and his wife Junko, under indictment on charges of fraudulently receiving public subsidies, were released on bail on May 25.

Kagoike also claimed that ministry records of negotiations with Moritomo officials have not yet been fully disclosed.

The names of first lady Akie Abe and of politicians were deleted from documents sanctioning the land deal. The Finance Ministry stated in an investigation report released on June 4 that the motives behind the name deletions remained unclear.

The records of negotiations between the ministry and the school operator that have been released make no mention of the first lady's April 2014 visit to the property in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, nor of a portion of talks in February and March last year shortly before Moritomo withdrew its application for permission to open the school.

Kagoike told reporters on June 6, "It's strange that the most important parts of the records don't exist."

Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry's investigative report revealed that in late February of last year, a ministry official proposed to the school operator's then attorney that they say that Kagoike was "away on a business trip."

Moritomo received a discount of about 800 million yen when it bought the state-owned property in 2015 from the Finance Ministry's Kinki Local Finance Bureau, with the purchase price to be paid in installments. Based on sale negotiation records, opposition lawmakers allege that the bureau offered the favorable price because of Akie Abe's influence.

In the interview, Kagoike declined to answer questions about the fraud and other charges against him.

(Japanese original by Masayuki Takashima and Koji Endo, Osaka City News Department)

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