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

29 March, 2018, 02:38 | Author: Valerie Santiago
  • Japan PM Abe likely to meet President Trump on April 18 source

Takanori Kawai of the opposition Democratic Party asked the prime minister for his appraisal of Sagawa's appearance.

His finance minister, Taro Aso, echoed that view and said some of responsibility for the trade imbalance rested with the United States.

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.

Nobuhisa Sagawa, the ex-head of the Finance Ministry office in charge of the documents, said in a highly anticipated parliamentary testimony his office "never reported [the falsifications] outside the finance bureau ... not to mention the prime minister's office".

However, the official declined to answer detailed questioning about how and when documents were altered, saying he was under criminal investigation.

Opposition party members have argued that Abe's comment in February 2017 may have prompted Finance Ministry officials to rewrite the documents to erase any trace of involvement on the part of the Abes.

On Monday he pledged a "thorough investigation so that everything can come to light".

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Sagawa was promoted in July to head the National Tax Agency.

As the scandal made national headlines, he stepped down, and the opposition has sought repeatedly to bring him before parliament to testify. The Finance Ministry has admitted it doctored documents relating to the transaction.

Sagawa's testimony Tuesday was the first time he has been officially summoned to address parliament under oath.

The premier has been on the ropes in recent weeks amid a scandal over the cut-price sale of government land to an Abe supporter.

Lawyer and former public prosecutor Yoji Ochiai said doubt has increased as to why serious misconduct like the falsification occurred if no politician was involved.

The suspected scandal and cover-up have slashed Abe's support rates and clouded his chances of a third term as ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader in a September party vote.

An Asahi News Network poll conducted over the weekend showed Abe's approval rating fell 11.7 percentage points to 32.6 percent over the past month, while disapproval rose 13.2 points to 54.9 percent.

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