Photo/IllutrationNobuhisa Sagawa responds to questions in the Diet in February 2017, when he served as director-general of the Finance Ministry's Financial Bureau. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The ruling coalition on March 20 finally agreed to summon a former Finance Ministry official to the Diet to explain documents falsified under his watch and his now-disproved statements about the Moritomo Gakuen scandal.

The secretaries-general and other executives of the Liberal Democratic Party and junior coalition partner Komeito agreed to have Nobuhisa Sagawa testify as a sworn witness before the Diet.

The Upper House Budget Committee on March 20 formally approved the summoning of Sagawa on March 27 as a sworn witness, which would make him subject to perjury charges.

The opposition had threatened to boycott Diet deliberations if their demands for Sagawa’s testimony were denied.

Sagawa served as director-general of the Finance Ministry’s Financial Bureau when officials there falsified at least 14 approved documents related to the leasing and eventual sale of state-owned land to Moritomo Gakuen.

Sagawa resigned as chief of the National Tax Agency on March 9 to take responsibility after the Finance Ministry admitted that the 14 falsified documents had been submitted to the Diet.

Ruling coalition officials at one time hoped that Sagawa, now a private-sector individual, would not have to face questioning in the Diet.

However, support rates for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have plummeted since the doctored documents were confirmed, and protesters in front of the prime minister’s office and elsewhere are demanding that heads roll over the scandal.

That pressure apparently convinced ruling coalition officials that Sagawa would have to explain himself in the Diet.

The sale of the state-owned land in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, to Moritomo Gakuen came under scrutiny because of the huge discount offered to the school operator and its connections to first lady Akie Abe.

During Diet questioning in 2017, when he was director-general of the Financial Bureau, Sagawa said all documents related to negotiations with Moritomo Gakuen over the sale of the plot had been discarded.

He added that discussions over the price were never held between officials of the Finance Ministry and Moritomo Gakuen.

However, in January, Finance Ministry officials released documents related to the negotiations. Audio recordings also showed that Moritomo Gakuen officials and Kinki Local Finance Bureau officials did discuss a possible price for the land.

Mitsuru Ota, Sagawa’s successor as Financial Bureau director-general, said during Diet deliberations that the rewriting of documents was conducted to avoid any misunderstandings from Sagawa’s past statements in the Diet.

Ota also said he believed Sagawa was heavily involved in the rewriting because he was the main person whose responses could be affected by the documents.

Ota’s words fueled the opposition parties’ demands that Sagawa appear again in the Diet.