Photo/IllutrationFinance Minister Taro Aso speaks at a news conference on June 2 after the conclusion of the G-7 meeting of finance ministers and central bankers in Whistler, Canada. (Tetsuya Kasai)

WHISTLER, Canada--Finance Minister Taro Aso stated that the tampering of official documents in a real estate scandal was not systematic, but the work of just a few bureaucrats.

He added that "almost all other officials were not involved at all in the matter" that concerns the sale of state-owned land at a huge discount to Osaka-based school operator Moritomo Gakuen.

His comment may well trigger a backlash as it appeared to downplay the seriousness of the issue, adding fuel to criticism that Aso is not the right person to oversee an overhaul of ministry practices.

Aso, speaking to reporters here after a Group of Seven meeting of finance ministers and central bankers wound up, said, "It was not conducted on an organization-wide scale in the sense that such activity was conducted on a daily basis by the entire entity known as the Finance Ministry."

His June 2 comment came two days before his ministry was to announce the results of its investigation into the fabrication of official documents as well as any disciplinary measures against the bureaucrats involved.

Aso explained that a few officials within a division handling state assets under the Finance Ministry's Financial Bureau were primarily responsible.

He has already made clear he has no intention of stepping down, regardless of what disciplinary measures are announced in Tokyo on June 4.

He has said it was his responsibility to ensure that such falsification of documents does not recur.