Abe apologizes for document alterations

13 March, 2018, 10:51 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
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Japan's Finance Ministry acknowledged Monday that it doctored documents in a widening scandal linked to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife that has rattled his government and caused its support ratings to slide.

Abe said he wanted Aso to make every effort to clarify all the facts and ensure such acts were not repeated.

The controversy has caused the Diet to stall, but Sakakibara said he still wants lawmakers to deliberate on other key issues during the current ordinary session through June, including labor reforms aimed at addressing overworking and exempting certain skilled workers from working-hour regulations.

Mr Abe, now in his sixth year in office, had previously denied that he or his wife did favors for the school operator, Moritomo Gakuen, and said that he would resign if evidence was found that they had.

Media have said the alterations were made after February previous year - when the suspected scandal broke - and that words describing the "special nature" of the deal were excised along with the names of several politicians and that of Akie.

In a parliamentary hearing Monday, Finance Ministry officials confirmed that a reference to Akie Abe having recommended the land deal was deleted from a document after the scandal surfaced. "What became clear is that they debased democracy", by lying to parliament, said opposition lawmaker Renho, who uses one name.

Also removed was a reference to ties by Mr Abe and Mr Aso to a conservative lobby group, Nippon Kaigi.

Abe quickly apologized Monday on behalf of ministry officials but did not mention his wife or her suspected role in the scandal.


Kyodo news agency reported earlier that Aso was considering skipping the G20 gathering as the controversy over a suspected cover-up by the finance ministry in the scandal paralyses parliament and puts his job on the line.

The doubts are also putting pressure on Mr Aso to resign.

But the alterations do fuel suspicion of a cover-up, which could be more damaging to Abe and Aso than the original land sale itself.

The backing of Mr Aso, 77, who doubles as deputy premier, is vital to Mr Abe's bid for a third term and a key factor in the stability of his administration. He said there was no "smoking gun" showing direct intervention by Abe or his wife.

But he added: "It now seems to be more a question of whether Mr Abe can manage an orderly exit at the end of his term in September or whether he'll resign hastily again - but I don't see how he can win a new mandate".

Last week, tax agency chief Nobuhisa Sagawa, who formerly oversaw the Finance Ministry bureau dealing with the land sale, resigned from his current post.

Some LDP members said politicians should not pass the buck to bureaucrats.

"It's a serious matter that the documents were altered".

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