• Kyodo

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The trial began Wednesday in which the wife of a former finance ministry bureaucrat is seeking compensation from the government and a former senior ministry official, alleging her husband killed himself after being ordered to alter documents related to favoritism allegations against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Seeking around ¥110 million ($1 million) in damages, Masako Akagi, 49, claimed that her husband Toshio, who worked at the ministry’s Kinki Local Finance Bureau, committed suicide at the age of 54 in March 2018 after suffering severe mental distress.

During the first hearing at the Osaka District Court, lawyers working for the state and the former senior official, Nobuhisa Sagawa, asked the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim.

Akagi belonged to a section that negotiated the heavily discounted sale of state-owned land in Osaka Prefecture to a school operator with ties to Abe’s wife Akie in 2016.

Abe has been criticized by opposition parties over allegations that the ministry gave a discount to the school operator Moritomo Gakuen in consideration of his wife’s role as honorary principal of an elementary school that was expected to open on the site.

According to the plaintiff’s claim, Sagawa, then chief of the ministry’s Finance Bureau in charge of managing state assets, ordered his subordinates in February to March 2017 to alter the documents to delete parts indicating the ministry gave preferential treatment to the school operator.

Abe in February the same year told a Diet session, “If I or my wife were involved (in the land transaction), I would step down as prime minister and a lawmaker.”

Akagi refused to follow Sagawa’s order but was forced to work overtime to falsify the documents, and eventually suffered from depression, according to the court claim.

The ministry has admitted to tampering with documents related to the land transaction to delete references to the sale price and Abe’s wife.

Sagawa assumed the head of the National Tax Agency in July 2017 but stepped down in March 2018 to take responsibility for the scandal over Moritomo Gakuen.

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