National / Politics

Japan's Finance Ministry mulls punishments for Sagawa, other civil servants in Moritomo document-tampering scandal

JIJI

The Finance Ministry is preparing to punish several former and current civil servants, including former National Tax Agency Commissioner Nobuhisa Sagawa, over the document falsification in the Moritomo Gakuen scandal linked to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, sources say.

The ministry will acknowledge that Sagawa, then director-general of the Financial Bureau, and other state officials were involved in the manipulation and consider taking disciplinary actions that may include pay cuts, the sources said.

It is also expected to question the responsibility of Budget Bureau Director-General Shigeaki Okamoto, who as deputy vice minister was in charge of managing official documents at the ministry.

Finance Minister Taro Aso has said he intends to punish any officials found involved in the scandal after the results of an investigation by the Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office are released.

On Friday, Aso told a news conference that he wants to appoint successors for Sagawa and former Vice Minister of Finance Junichi Fukuda, who resigned last month over sex harassment allegations, “by the end of the ongoing session” of the Diet on June 20 if the results of the probe are available.

In February 2017, it was learned that the Finance Ministry’s Kinki Local Finance Bureau had sold a plot of state land at a huge discount to ultranationalist school operator Moritomo Gakuen. Abe’s wife, Akie, had been appointed honorary principal of an elementary school Moritomo planned to build on the land.

Between the February revelation and April the same year, Akie’s name and other descriptions in documents related to the shady land sale were deleted or manipulated in the detailed records of the sale negotiations.

At the request of opposition parties, the ministry is scheduled to submit the original, unaltered documents to the Diet on Wednesday.

On March 9, Sagawa resigned as head of the tax agency, mainly for disrupting Diet deliberations with his testimony on the document-tampering. He also took a 20 percent pay cut for three months for undermining trust in state property administration.

Aso has signaled the ministry could impose a stricter punishment on Sagawa, depending on the results of the investigation.