Photo/IllutrationThis document obtained by The Asahi Shimbun contains the date, time and participants of a meeting regarding the opening of a veterinary medicine faculty. The names have been blacked out for privacy purposes. (The Asahi Shimbun)

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said documents indicating the use of political pressure to help a friend of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were “bogus” and “invalid,” citing a lack of date and authorship.

But one of the documents obtained by The Asahi Shimbun not only clearly states a date, time and the names of government officials, it also contains a warning of repercussions because the “highest levels of the prime minister’s office” were interested in the matter.

The education ministry documents showed that Cabinet Office officials wanted to speed up the approval process for a veterinary medicine faculty planned by the Kake Educational Institution.

The institution is run by Kotaro Kake, a friend of Abe’s for about 40 years since they both studied at the same university in the United States.

Abe has repeatedly denied any involvement in the process.

And his chief government spokesman was quick to defend the prime minister from further political controversy.

“These are nothing more than bogus documents because it is unclear where they were produced,” Suga said at his daily news conference on May 17.

He blasted the evidence used as “invalid,” arguing that government bureaucrats include dates and times when they create documents, as well as which bureau or department wrote them.

The latest document was composed by an education ministry official describing a meeting held on Sept. 26, 2016, according to a ministry source.

The document includes the names of two high-ranking Cabinet Office officials, as well as a division chief and a deputy from the education ministry who attended the meeting.

The Cabinet Office is in charge of National Strategic Special Zones, and the Kake Educational Institution wanted to open the faculty in one of these zones in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture.

The Cabinet Office officials are quoted in the document as saying at the meeting: “With the major precondition of opening the faculty in April 2018, a schedule to allow for the shortest time period possible to make such an objective possible should be drawn up and shared. … This is something passed on from the highest levels of the prime minister’s office.”

In addition, according to the document, the officials warned: “There is no option of ‘it cannot be done.’ If bureaucratic action is not taken quickly, someone will have to take responsibility. There will be a need to seek out a decision by a political appointee at an early stage.”

Another document obtained by the Asahi contains a summary of the meeting, but the date and time are not included. That document is titled, “Items transmitted from the Cabinet Office regarding the establishment of a new veterinary medicine faculty,” and it contains the exact same phrase “This is something passed on from the highest levels of the prime minister’s office.”

A deliberative council is now looking into whether to approve the Kake Educational Institution’s plan.

The institution has long sought to open a veterinary medicine faculty.

After the Structural Reform Special Zone system started under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the Kake Educational Institution tried and failed on 15 different occasions from 2007 to obtain approval for opening a veterinary medicine faculty.

The education ministry had long opposed the establishment of such faculties over concerns about creating an excess of veterinarians.

But the situation appeared to change for the Kake Educational Institution after Abe began his second stint as prime minister in December 2012.

The Abe administration started a National Strategic Special Zone system and declared in June 2015 that consideration would be given to opening a veterinary medicine faculty. The last time such a faculty was opened was in 1966.

In January 2016, Imabari was designated as a National Strategic Special Zone, and one of the items included in the list of possible deregulation measures was the establishment of a veterinary medicine faculty.

The Kake Educational Institution submitted the only application for this faculty in January 2017.

Bureaucrats explained why some of the documents obtained by the Asahi lacked authorship.

“The stronger the sense that a document could be dangerous, the greater is the tendency to treat such documents as personal memos that do not include who and when it was created,” an education ministry source said. “That makes it possible to deny any knowledge should the document come to light. In Kasumigaseki, such documents are referred to as ‘writer unknown.’”

Kasumigaseki is the central Tokyo district where many government ministries and agencies are located.

A familiar name from an earlier school-related scandal has surfaced in the latest one.

Officials of the Kake Educational Institution acknowledged that first lady Akie Abe has served since June 2015 as honorary principal of the Mikage International Kindergarten operated by the institution in Kobe.

The prime minister’s wife was also appointed as honorary principal of a private elementary school planned by school operator Moritomo Gakuen in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture.

She resigned the post after reports surfaced in February about a questionable deal involving Moritomo Gakuen and state-owned land in Toyonaka.