Almost half of Japanese think Abe should quit over land sale scandal

29 March, 2018, 02:34 | Author: Sheri Evans
  • Yasunori Kagoike left and Akie Abe

Nobuhisa Sagawa, who previously headed a Finance Ministry department in charge of state property deals, apologized in parliamentary testimony over the document tampering, but repeatedly refused to answer lawmakers' questions about whether he was aware of the changes or who ordered them and why, citing the possibility of facing criminal charges.

Sagawa oversaw a regional bureau involved in negotiating the sale of a tract of land to Moritomo Gakuen, the operator of a kindergarten known for espousing elements of the pre-war nationalist curriculum and for explicitly backing Abe. The Finance Ministry has admitted it doctored documents relating to the transaction. "I strongly feel responsibility as the head of administration".

While Sagawa did not touch on whether he was involved in the doctoring of the documents, he insisted that they were tampered with at the Financial Bureau, denying involvement of the prime minister or those around him.

The Japanese government is considering arranging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the United States for April 17-19, sources told Jiji Press on Tuesday.

When asked about the deletion of key words in the documents, including Akie Abe's name, Sagawa declined to answer questions.

Kiyomi Tsujimoto of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan blasted Sagawa's testimony as "betraying public expectations".

Nobuhisa Sagawa on Tuesday testified in the Diet on the ministry's altering of official documents on the sale.

The opposition camp, however, are gearing up to summon Akie Abe and others to give testimony soon in a legitimate bid to conclude the protracted scandal that has seen the approval rating for Abe's cabinet plummeting, according to recent media polls. In contrast with his definitive attitude when denying any involvement of the prime minister and his wife in the matter, Sagawa failed to completely dispel suspicion that bureaucrats curried favor with politicians when handling the land sale.

Regarding the cronyism scandal, Tuesday marks the first sworn testimony given in the Diet since the nationalist school operator's former head, Yasunori Kagoike, was summoned in March past year.

The protest follows demonstrations last week calling for Abe and Aso to step down.

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