A court hearing Wednesday heard Nobuhisa Sagawa, a former senior official at the Finance Ministry, referred to in an audio recording as a decision-maker behind a high-profile document-tampering scandal involving the ministry.

Toshio Akagi, who was working at the ministry's Kinki Local Finance Bureau, killed himself in March 2018 at the age of 54 after he was allegedly forced to tamper with documents related to the discounted sale of a plot of state land to school operator Moritomo Gakuen.

His 49-year-old widow, Masako, has filed a suit seeking ¥112 million in damages with the Osaka District Court against the central government and Sagawa, then director-general of the ministry's Financial Bureau. Sagawa has also previously served as commissioner of the National Tax Agency.

In the second hearing of the trial, the plaintiff’s legal team presented the recording of comments made by one of Akagi’s former superiors at the Kinki Local Finance Bureau to Masako Akagi about the document-tampering.

Lawyers representing the plaintiff also demanded that the state submit to the court a file that is said to have been compiled by Akagi and is believed to show the background to the tampering.

The conversation captured in the audio data was recorded when the official visited Masako Akagi to offer condolences in March 2019, about a year after Akagi's death, the plaintiff’s team explained.

According to lawyers representing the plaintiff, the official said in the recording that the tampering was based on "a decision made by Sagawa" and that Akagi's file gave a "full explanation about how we tampered with the documents."

Meanwhile, the state’s representation submitted a paper saying that there was no need to explain about the background to the tampering in detail as there was no dispute over whether the documents had been tampered with.

The plaintiff’s team described the state's response as being "just for show," criticizing the government's reluctance to uncover the truth behind the scandal, including who gave the instruction for the the tampering to be done.

"I want you to imagine how much damage the bereaved family suffers from being told there is no need to answer," Masako Akagi said.

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