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  World   Asia  13 Mar 2018  Japan’s Abe, wife under fire over cover-up of cronyism

Japan’s Abe, wife under fire over cover-up of cronyism

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Published : Mar 13, 2018, 1:56 am IST
Updated : Mar 13, 2018, 1:56 am IST

Mr Aso told a hastily arranged press conference, “Changing official documents is very grave and extremely regrettable and I deeply apologise.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Tokyo: A spiralling cronyism scandal linked to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie reached fever pitch on Monday after the finance ministry admitted to tampering with records to remove references to the pair.

Mr Abe acknowledged the new revelations “could undermine trust in the entire government” and added, “I strongly feel responsibility as the head of administration. I apologize to all of the people.”

“I take people’s criticism sincerely and want finance minister (Taro) Aso to be responsible for pushing ahead with an investigation to fully reveal why this kind of incident happened,” Mr Abe said.

Allegations against Ms Abe, for her involvement with Moritomo Gakuen, an operator of ultraconservative schools that was able to purchase government land in Osaka at a fraction of its value, first emerged early last year, but resurfaced after the revelation that official documents related to the sale had been changed.

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.

Mr Aso told a hastily arranged press conference, “Changing official documents is very grave and extremely regrettable and I deeply apologise.”

Versions of the original and the doctored documents published by Opposition lawmakers appeared to show Mr Abe’s name had been scrubbed, along with that of his wife and Mr Aso from finance ministry records of the discounted sale of state-owned land to the school operator.

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.

Some political rivals of Mr Abe’s long-dominant Liberal Democratic called for the resignation of Mr Aso, while others said the entire Cabinet should resign, en masse.

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