Japan ministry 'to admit doctoring documents linked to Abe cronyism row'

  • Japan ministry 'to admit doctoring documents linked to Abe cronyism row'

Japan ministry 'to admit doctoring documents linked to Abe cronyism row'

Tokyo- Japan's finance ministry admitted to doctoring key documents related to a favouritism scandal dogging Shinzo Abe, a ruling lawmaker said Monday, as a new poll suggested the affair is hitting the prime minister's popularity.

The records that were altered pertain to a shady deal reached to sell a plot of state-owned land to Osaka's Moritomo Gakuen, a nationalist school operator in June 2016.

Earlier Monday, Aso told a hastily arranged press conference: "Changing official documents is very grave and extremely regrettable and I deeply apologise".

The Moritomo scandal, which first surfaced in February previous year and pushed down Abe's support ratings, has drawn fresh attention after a major daily reported on March 2 that the ministry's documents had been doctored to remove descriptions saying the dramatically cut land sales price was "exceptional".

A top finance bureaucrat involved in the land deal resigned on Friday and another official reportedly killed himself.

Speaking to reporters outside his office, the prime minister "deeply" apologised to the public for this "incident that could shake confidence" in government operations.

Until now... because as the Japanese press reported over the weekend, the Moritomo scandal involving PM Abe's connections with the operators of the right-leaning school implicated in fraud are again roiling markets in Japan.

Japan's opposition have urged Aso, who also serves as deputy premier, to step down to take responsibility.

"I am not thinking about that at all", he said, adding he did not believe the alterations were meant to protect Abe and his wife.

The Mainichi Shimbun has reported the documents were doctored to be "coherent" with a speech made in parliament by the head of the tax agency Nobuhisa Sagawa, who stepped down on Friday over the scandal. The documents were altered to make them consistent with Sagawa's responses to Diet questions on the matter, according to the sources.

The scandal emerged a year ago and concerns the sale of land to a supporter of Abe at a price said to be around one tenth of its market value.