Photo/IllutrationA private elementary school planned by Moritomo Gakuen was constructed on previously state-owned land in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Construction company officials said they were pressured to inflate the volume of waste on state-owned land that was later sold to Moritomo Gakuen, which received a huge discount for garbage-removal costs, sources said.

The officials told investigators that the pressure came from officials at both Moritomo Gakuen and the Finance Ministry’s Kinki Local Finance Bureau, the sources said.

The Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office is questioning the construction company officials in its investigation into criminal complaints on possible breach of trust, destroying of evidence and discarding of official documents in connection with the land deal.

Opposition party lawmakers have already been asking the government about the possibility that the volume of reported waste was inflated to reinforce Moritomo Gakuen’s claim that it deserved a large discount for the land.

The lawmakers have suggested the scheme was concocted to conceal the suspected real reason for the discount--Moritomo Gakuen’s connections to first lady Akie Abe.

Moritomo Gakuen initially planned to lease the plot in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, to open a private elementary school.

On March 11, 2016, Moritomo Gakuen officials told the Kinki Local Finance Bureau that additional waste had been found at the site during work to drive piles into the land for construction of the school building and gymnasium.

In late March 2016, the construction company compiled a report that was submitted to the central government. The report said waste was mixed into the dirt until a depth of 3.8 meters, and photos were included showing a tape measure inserted into a hole.

According to sources, the construction company officials have told investigators that the hole in the photo was not even 3 meters deep.

They explained that Moritomo Gakuen officials and the Kinki Local Finance Bureau asked the construction company to set the waste-discovery depth at 3.8 meters in the report, the sources said.

In audio recordings that have already been made public, construction company officials expressed problems with setting the depth at 3.8 meters because not much waste was found below 3 meters.

The Kinki Local Finance Bureau still used the 3.8-meter depth in calculating the costs for removing waste from the site.

The bureau said waste was found on 5,190 square meters, or 59 percent, of the 8,770-square-meter site. According to the bureau, waste was buried at depths up to 9.9 meters where the piles were driven and 3.8 meters everywhere else.

As a result, about 820 million yen ($7.7 million) was discounted from the appraisal value of the vacant lot, and the site was sold to Moritomo Gakuen for 134 million yen in June 2016.