Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Thursday steadfastly refused to reopen the investigation into leaked education ministry documents that suggest a school operator run by a close friend of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe benefited from government favoritism.
Suga’s stance signals that the government intends to ignore fresh reports by multiple media outlets that the documents in question are authentic and were shared by ministry bureaucrats last fall.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Kyodo News, Fuji Television Network and Tokyo Broadcasting System Television separately reported making contact with multiple anonymous education ministry sources who said the papers were circulated in the ministry last year.
The latest issue of Shukan Bunshun weekly, which hit the stands on Thursday, quotes a senior ministry official as saying the documents were authentic.
On Saturday and Tuesday, NHK and the daily Asahi Shimbun reported that multiple anonymous education officials are vouching for the documents.
Suga ducked questions about the credibility of the reports at Thursday’s news conference.
“We’ve judged that we don’t need to confirm the existence or contents of documents whose origin is not clear,” he said.
When asked how the government concluded that no further investigation is necessary, Suga only repeated a variation of his previous comments, apparently written on a cue card, stating that the government investigated last month and feels no more is required.
“Seeing the government’s refusal to reopen the investigation, I just feel that the government is trying to hide something,” Renho, the head of the Democratic Party, the largest opposition force, said later in the day.
The government’s intransigence “will only deepen suspicions” about the documents, she said.
The documents, whose existence was first reported by Asahi last month, quoted Cabinet Office officials as saying “the highest-level” officials at the Prime Minister’s Office want to quickly approve an application from the company, Okayama-based Kake Gakuen, to open a veterinary department at one of its universities in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture. Kake Gakuen is chaired by Kotaro Kake, Abe’s close friend.
On May 19, the ministry claimed it could not find any of the documents after interviewing several officials and searching an online folder that is shared by its Technical Education Division, which handled Kake Gakuen’s application.
But the state’s probe has drawn fire for not searching the hard drives of the computers used by the 31 ministry officials involved.
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