Although once said to have been discarded, about 400 pages of documents that could shed new light on the controversial sale of state-owned land to the Moritomo Gakuen educational institution were submitted to the Diet on Feb. 9.

The Finance Ministry's release of the 20 documents could heighten pressure on the government to allow Nobuhisa Sagawa, the head of the National Tax Agency, to appear before the Diet to answer questions about them.

Opposition party members had demanded that the ministry hand over documents related to the land sale, but in last year's Diet session, when Sagawa was still director-general of the Finance Ministry's Financial Bureau, he repeatedly said that no negotiations were held with Moritomo Gakuen over the price of the land in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, which the institution wanted to purchase to set up a private elementary school.

Sagawa also said that all documents related to the discussions with Moritomo Gakuen had been discarded.

However, in January, the Finance Ministry responded to an information disclosure request from a university professor and released five documents, including one that contained information about the negotiation process.

The documents contained requests made by Moritomo Gakuen as well as the contents of discussions held among various ministry sections over any possible legal issues related to the land sale.

The 20 new documents were presented on Feb. 9 to the directors' meetings of the budget committees of the two Diet chambers. The documents were compiled by ministry officials between September 2013 and April 2015, when Moritomo Gakuen was negotiating with the ministry over a land rental arrangement and before it agreed to purchase the site for the proposed elementary school.

Although the property had an appraised value of 956 million yen ($8.7 million), the government sold it to Moritomo Gakuen for 134 million yen on June 20, 2016, estimating 819 million yen in waste-removal costs for the site.

At a Feb. 1 Upper House Budget Committee session, Finance Ministry officials admitted that other documents had been found in addition to the five released in January. Ministry officials promised to submit the new documents to the Diet after confirming if there were sections that had to be blacked out.

Diet members were perturbed at the time it took for the ministry to release the documents.

Junichi Ishii, an Upper House Budget Committee director belonging to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, called on the Finance Ministry to seriously reflect on its failure to provide the records sooner.

However, Finance Minister Taro Aso continued to downplay the importance of their release.

"The documents are not a record of negotiations (with Moritomo Gakuen) but records of the legal consultations made within the Kinki Local Finance Bureau regarding any legal issues related to the negotiations," Aso said at a Lower House Budget Committee session on Feb. 9.