Key figure in land scandal to testify in Diet on March 27

Hannah Rogers
March 21, 2018

Sagawa resigned as chief of the National Tax Agency on March 9 to take responsibility after the Finance Ministry admitted that the 14 falsified documents had been submitted to the Diet.

Abe has denied wrongdoing by himself or his wife Akie, while Aso has denied he instructed changes to the records. Opposition lawmakers ended their boycott of Diet deliberations Friday with the understanding that Sagawa would be called in for sworn testimony, not mere questioning.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is facing the worst crisis of his leadership after his and his wife's names were scrubbed from documents showing the discounted sale of government-owned land to a company tied to his wife.

At the same time, Abe acknowledged that it was only natural for the public to cast a suspicious eye on the country's first couple after his wife was named honorary principal of the school.

Abe and Putin also discussed joint economic activities on disputed islands and "humanitarian measures" for former Japanese islanders, the ministry said.

"The opposition is very weak and I don't think people want them to take over", said Tsuneo Watanabe, a senior research fellow at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation.

Finance Minister and former PM Taro Aso is at the heart of the scandal and is skipping the G20 finance leaders meeting this week.

The agreement to summon Sagawa puts an end to a gridlock in parliament over the document scandal and means the budget for the upcoming fiscal year is likely to be passed before the end of the month.

Sagawa is expected to be asked how and why the edits were made, who gave the orders to do so and whether there was political involvement in the decision.

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Yet for all the effort to ensure Sagawa's testimony, his answers are not guaranteed to shed light on the scandal.

In an LDP presidential election, half the votes are cast by representatives of its regional chapters, who are more likely to be affected by the sentiments of the general public.

"She said, 'please, this is from Shinzo Abe, ' and gave me an envelope with 1m yen in it", Yasunori Kagoike, president of the Moritomo Gakuen group, testified in a parliamentary committee in March 2017.

However, in January, Finance Ministry officials released documents related to the negotiations.

In another file, it states that Akie was "moved to tears by the school's education policy".

Abe has said he has checked with his wife and she said she did not make any such comment.

The Prime Minister, Akie, and the government also deny these allegations.

Sagawa stepped down three days before the ministry revealed last week that it had edited the records.

The Finance Ministry occupies a powerful place in the Japanese government, deciding on the budgets for other ministries and agencies.

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