undergroundnewsroom.com March 23, 2018

Japanese Prime Minister, finance minister under fire in cronyism scandal

13 March 2018, 10:49 | Damon Campbell

Pressure mounts on Japan's Shinzo Abe amid details of cronyism

Pressure mounts on Japan’s Shinzo Abe amid details of cronyism

Mr Aso, who doubles as Deputy Prime Minister and whose backing is vital for Mr Abe, apologised for his ministry's actions, but said he did not intend to step down.

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said on Tuesday it was unclear whether he would attend the Group of 20 finance leaders' meeting in Buenos Aires next week given confusion in parliament over a suspected cronyism scandal.

The issue a year ago sharply eroded Mr Abe's popularity.

"People are looking critically at the developments, and I take it seriously", he said, promising to pursue a thorough investigation into what caused the problem.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe visit a former home of Chiune Sugihara, a Jew-saving Japanese diplomat, in Kaunas, Lithuania January 14, 2018.

The operator had named Akie Abe the honorary principal of the school he was planning to build on the government plot.

The scandal, which surfaced a year ago, has smouldered despite a major election victory by Abe in July as opposition lawmakers continued to scrutinize the case.

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The finance ministry admitted on Monday that it had altered official documents surrounding the decision to provide an 85 per cent discount on the appraised value of the land. The changes were made from February to April past year at the instruction of the Financial Bureau, the ministry department in charge of state property transactions, mostly at its regional unit in Osaka, Aso said.

Mr Sagawa headed the ministry division that submitted the documents before he was tapped as tax agency chief in July, an appointment critics saw as a reward for his efforts to diffuse the issue with his statements to Parliament past year.

Sagawa was head of the finance ministry department that oversaw the land deal, before being promoted past year to tax agency chief.

But he batted off suggestions he might resign over the scandal. Sagawa also acknowledged destroying documents.

The doubts are also putting pressure on Aso to resign.

Quotes by Moritomo Gakuen that said Akie Abe recommended the school operator's project move forward and that she gave a speech there were erased. The Abes are known to have supported the school's nationalistic philosophy of education. Opposition lawmakers have long questioned Mr. Abe's denials of involvement in the land sale and have made repeated calls for a broader investigation. "What about the multiple explanations in parliament - did they diverge from the truth?" Yukio Edano, leader of the constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said the document doctoring by the ministry "shakes the foundation of Japan's democracy".

A 9-11 March survey by the Yomiuri newspaper showed support for Abe's cabinet has now fallen to 48 percent, down six points from a month earlier.

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