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Japan minister Aso questions if readers have interest in doc tampering scandal

Finance Minister Taro Aso answers a reporter's question during a press conference at his ministry in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Sept. 21, 2021. (Mainichi/Yuki Machino)

TOKYO -- Finance Minister Taro Aso reiterated that he will not launch a reinvestigation into document tampering at his ministry in connection with the heavily discounted sale of state land to nationalist school operator Moritomo Gakuen, questioning whether readers would be interested in news reports regarding the issue.

    "Reporters are asking (the potential leader of) the next administration about their evaluation of the previous administration, but would readers be interested in it?" Aso questioned during a press conference following a Cabinet meeting on Sept. 21.

    Aso's comment came just as media representatives have been asking candidates in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's presidential election about whether they intend to launch a fresh investigation into the document doctoring scandal. The minister's comment hints at his desire to draw the curtain on the issue, even though there are strong views that the ministry's investigation into the case was inadequate.

    After the massively discounted property sale to Moritomo Gakuen came to the surface and caused controversy, Finance Ministry papers approving the land transaction were altered and an employee at the ministry's Kinki Local Finance Bureau who was involved in the tampering took his own life. The ministry released an investigation report on the case in 2018.

    Among the candidates for the party leadership race, LDP Executive Acting Secretary-General Seiko Noda has indicated her intention to open a fresh probe into the scandal, and announced that she will set up an investigation team within the ruling party. "Many members of the public have not been convinced (by the probe so far)," Noda said.

    In response to the move, Aso was asked by reporters about the need for a reinvestigation. He answered that questions regarding the issue have been raised at press conferences held by the LDP presidential election candidates, and said with a laugh, "I thought that reporters have spent such a great deal of time on asking the candidates for the next administration about their views on the previous administration, but would readers be interested in the evaluation of the former administration as told by the next administration?"

    (Japanese original by Yuki Machino, Business News Department)

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