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Wife of Japan gov't worker who took own life amid Moritomo scandal sues gov't

Lawyer Tadashi Matsumaru, left, who is representing the bereaved family of the former Finance Ministry official who took his own life, shows a page of documents released following a freedom of information request, which mostly has been blacked out, in Osaka's Kita Ward on March 18, 2020. (Mainichi/Tadashi Kako)

TOKYO -- The wife of a Finance Ministry official who killed himself in March 2018 amid a scandal over the tampering of public records relating to a land deal with nationalist school operator Moritomo Gakuen has sued the government and Japan's former tax chief for some 110 million yen in damages, saying he was ordered to alter the records.

In the lawsuit filed with the Osaka District Court on March 18, the official's bereaved family say they want the lawsuit to shed light on what drove him to take his own life at the age of 54.

Nobuhisa Sagawa is pictured in the Diet on March 27, 2018. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

The official, Toshio Akagi, had worked at the Finance Ministry's Kinki Local Finance Bureau, which handled negotiations and the contract over the heavily discounted sale of state land in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, to Osaka-based Moritomo Gakuen, according to the lawsuit. His bereaved family has publicly disclosed memos and a suicide note he left behind. They claim he was forced to alter the public records and put the blame on former National Tax Agency chief Nobuhisa Sagawa, saying "Everything was ordered by Mr. Sagawa." Sagawa was heading the ministry's Financial Bureau at the time of the document alteration.

According to the lawsuit and other information, Akagi was repeatedly ordered to alter records after the heavily discounted land sale came to light in February 2017. The memos stated that he resisted the orders to doctor the records, describing the situation as an unusual one he "had never experienced before," and stated, "The Ministry of Finance is persisting with its false testimony in the Diet and elsewhere."

Akagi subsequently fell ill, and took time off work from July 2017. He took his own life on March 7, 2018, soon after the fabrication of the records surfaced through news reports. Part of the suicide note read, "My hands are shaking. It's scary. Life, precious life, period."

In June 2018, the Ministry of Finance released the results of a probe saying that Sagawa, then Financial Bureau chief, played a leading role in the tampering of documents. The ministry admitted that 14 documents relating to the state land sale had been altered between February and April 2017. This included removing the name of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife Akie, who had at one point been appointed honorary principal of an elementary school that Moritomo Gakuen aimed to open.

A total of 38 people, including Sagawa, were reported to public prosecutors in connection with the sale being accused of altering official documents, among other charges. On May 31, 2018, a special investigative unit of the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office announced that it would drop charges against all of the accused.

(Japanese original by Shiho Matsumoto and Kosuke Yamamoto, Osaka City News Department)

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