National / Crime & Legal

Osaka prosecutors close Moritomo Gakuen case after reconfirming no bureaucrats will be indicted over scandal

JIJI

The Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office decided again on Friday not to indict former senior Finance Ministry bureaucrat Nobuhisa Sagawa and nine others over the Moritomo Gakuen cronyism scandal that hit the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The secondary decision, which cited insufficient evidence, followed a reinvestigation into allegations that included forgery and breach of trust after the initial decision was questioned by a prosecution inquest panel made up of ordinary citizens.

The latest decision puts an end to the case, as it will not be reviewed by such a panel again under the prosecution inquest system.

The scandal, which was also linked to a suicide by a Finance Ministry official, unfolded with a series of revelations from February 2017, including that of the sale of a state-owned plot of land at a massive discount to Moritomo Gakuen, an ultranationalist school operator that was linked to Abe’s wife, Akie.

In March 2018, the ministry admitted that it had manipulated state documents related to the controversial land deal by deleting any references to Akie Abe.

In May that year, the prosecutors closed the initial investigation without indicting any of the 38 individuals against whom criminal complaints had been filed by a group of citizens and others.

In March this year, the prosecution inquest panel concluded that the decision not to indict was unreasonable for 10 of the 38 individuals. The prosecutors then reopened the probe for those 10, including Sagawa, a former director-general of the ministry’s Financial Bureau who was later appointed head of the National Tax Agency.

The latest decision not to indict provoked an angry backlash from those who were pursuing criminal charges.

“No indictment was likely predetermined,” said Hiroshi Kamiwaki , a professor of law at Kobe Gakuin University.

“We’ll now pursue the truth in civil lawsuits,” lawyer Tokuo Sakaguchi, who had asked the inquest panel to review the prosecutors’ initial decision, told a news conference.