Fri, Mar 16, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Japanese finance minister to miss G20 over scandal

COVER-UP?A newspaper reported that the transport ministry had told the prime minister’s office that it had the unaltered documents of the controversial land sale

Reuters, Tokyo

Protesters shout slogans and hold placards denouncing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Japanese Minister of Finance Taro Aso at a rally in front of Abe’s official residence in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Photo: Reuters

Japanese Minister of Finance Taro Aso will not attend the G20 finance leaders’ meeting in Buenos Aires next week due to legislative wrangling over altered documents in a suspected favoritism scandal, a ruling party source told reporters.

Aso is instead to attend a debate in the Japanese National Diet on Monday about the scandal involving the controversial sale of public land to a school operator with ties to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife.

Aso has come under fire since the Japanese Ministry of Finance’s admission this week that it had altered records involved in the heavily discounted sale of land to school operator Moritomo Gakuen.

References to Abe, his wife, Akie Abe, and Aso were removed from the ministry’s records of the sale, copies of documents released by the ministry showed.

Abe, who is hoping to win a third term as party leader later this year, has remained steadfast that he and the first lady were not involved in the land sale.

Suspicion of a cover-up could slash Abe’s ratings and undermine his chances in the Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership vote in September. If successful, he would become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.

Officials told reporters earlier this week that Aso was considering skipping the G20 meeting amid the fallout from the scandal, which has paralyzed legislative proceedings and has opposition leaders calling for Aso’s resignation.

Aso has rejected calls to resign and said responsibility for the land sale lays with Nobuhisa Sagawa, who stepped down as tax chief on Friday last week.

Sagawa headed the ministry division that submitted the documents before he became commissioner of the Japanese National Tax Agency in July last year.

The Asahi Shimbun yesterday reported that the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism on Monday last week told the prime minister’s office and the finance ministry that it had the unaltered documents — three days before the finance ministry presented to the legislature what it said were copies of the original documents.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told a news conference that a deputy chief Cabinet secretary on Monday learned that there was “a possibility” that some of the original documents existed, and that he directed the transportation ministry to cooperate with investigations.

Suga said he was told about the possibility that some of the original documents existed the next day.

The scandal has already caused a stalemate in the legislature, with opposition parties threatening to boycott debate on the budget.

The logjam could also leave two Bank of Japan deputy governor posts vacant when the incumbents’ terms end next week, as the appointments need lawmakers’ approval.

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