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Bureaucrat's widow asks Japan PM to look into scandal that led to suicide

Masako Akagi, left, reads out a copy of the letter sent to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during a news conference in Osaka's Kita Ward on Oct. 7, 2021. (Mainichi/Shiho Matsumoto)

OSAKA (Kyodo) -- The widow of a Finance Ministry official, who killed himself over document tampering related to favoritism allegations against then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said Thursday she has asked Japan's new leader Fumio Kishida to reinvestigate the case.

    Masako Akagi, 50, said she called in a letter sent to Kishida the previous day for a fresh third-party probe to reveal the truth behind the 2018 death of her husband Toshio, who was allegedly ordered to alter ministry documents in connection with the heavily discounted sale of state-owned land to a private school operator.

    Kishida has so far remained reluctant to order a reinvestigation into the document tampering scandal related to the dubious land transaction with Moritomo Gakuen, the school operator in Osaka with ties to Abe's wife Akie.

    Akagi told a press conference in Osaka, western Japan, on Thursday that she wrote to Kishida because he has often insisted he is "good at listening to people."

    Kishida told reporters the same day in Shizuoka, central Japan, "I have not received the letter. I will think of what to do after receiving it."

    In a report on its investigation into the document tampering scandal in June 2018, the ministry admitted that then National Tax Agency chief Nobuhisa Sagawa directed officials to falsify and delete parts of the documents related to Akie Abe.

    But Akagi criticized the report, saying, "It did not include the death of my husband. I'm not satisfied with it."

    Toshio Akagi, 54, who worked at the ministry's Kinki Local Finance Bureau, suffered severe mental distress before his death in March 2018.

    Since the new prime minister was not involved in the scandal, Akagi said she hopes he will touch on the reinvestigation at a press conference after his first policy speech to parliament on Friday.

    "If he will listen to me face to face, I want to go right away," Akagi said.

    The previous administrations of Abe and his successor Yoshihide Suga rejected a fresh investigation.

    Akagi also claimed in the two-page letter that her husband had argued at the local bureau that the falsification should not be carried out and called for a probe into how the ministry responded to his request.

    "I think a society that does not allow people to say what is right is right is wrong. I believe Prime Minister Kishida will understand," Akagi said.

    The widow has been seeking damages from the state and Sagawa over her husband's death in a trial at the Osaka District Court. She maintains the state is liable for having her husband work over 100 hours a month in overtime to falsify documents.

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