Ex-chief of scandal-hit school operator summoned for questioning over subsidy fraud

Kyodo

Prosecutors on Thursday summoned the former chief of a scandal-mired nationalist school operator and his wife for questioning in relation to allegations of soliciting fraudulent public subsidies for their businesses.

The criminal investigation into Yasunori Kagoike, 64, former chief of Moritomo Gakuen, and his wife Junko, 60, who served as a senior official for the school operator, follows a scandal over a controversial land deal involving heavily discounted government land for a new school.

The Osaka District Public Prosecutors’s Office special investigation squad brought the couple, who have close links to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in on Thursday after it received a complaint in March that the school operator unlawfully received state subsidies worth about ¥56 million in relation to the construction project of an elementary school in the city of Toyonaka.

The couple left after the interrogation, but sources said the special squad is determined to build a case against them and is likely deciding how best to move forward.

Moritomo Gakuen gave up on the plan to open the school in April following the initial scandal, with Kagoike stepping down as head of the school operator in March.

Kagoike also faces another criminal complaint filed in May that he swindled around ¥62 million in subsidies between fiscal 2011 and 2016 from Osaka Prefecture for a kindergarten in the city of Osaka. In June, the prosecutors raided sites linked to Moritomo Gakuen.

Before heading to the prosecutors’ office with his wife, Kagoike told reporters, “I’d like to explain (the situation) as clearly as possible.”

In applying for state subsidies for the elementary school’s construction, Moritomo Gakuen submitted a document showing that building costs totaled around ¥2.38 billion. But the operator is suspected of having padded the costs to obtain increased subsidies, investigative sources said.

The Osaka Prefectural Government has said the school operator illegally received subsidies for its Tsukamoto Kindergarten by submitting false reports on teacher working conditions and pupils who required special assistance due to disabilities and other reasons.

Moritomo Gakuen was found to have acquired the 8,770-sq.-meter plot in June last year in Toyonaka for ¥134 million, roughly 14 percent of its appraisal value, following negotiations with the Finance Ministry’s local bureau.

Abe’s wife Akie was named honorary principal of the school planned to be build on the land, but the prime minister has denied his or his wife’s involvement in the issue.