By NAOKI TSUZAKA/ Staff Writer
June 17, 2020 at 15:08 JST
Finance Minister Taro Aso again ruled out a new investigation into a document falsification scandal involving his ministry that led to the suicide of one of its officials, despite a petition signed by hundreds of thousands of people and submitted by the widow calling for a fresh probe.
“My ministry severely disciplined the ministry officials involved based on a thorough investigation into the matter,” Aso said at a news conference held after a Cabinet meeting on June 16. “I’m not considering (re-investigating it) at this point.”
Toshio Akagi, 54, an official with the Kinki Local Finance Bureau who killed himself in March 2018, left behind notes that outlined the pressure he and others at the bureau had faced to rewrite documents related to the sale of state-owned land in Osaka Prefecture to private school operator Moritomo Gakuen.
At that time, opposition parties asserted that Moritomo Gakuen was handed a massive discount for the plot because of its close ties to Akie Abe, the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The results of the Finance Ministry investigation into the doctored documents in June 2018 only pointed out that Nobuhisa Sagawa, who was the director-general of the ministry’s Financial Bureau at the time, had set the general direction for doctoring the documents but that no direct orders or influence from politicians could be ascertained.
The widow, Masako, criticized the results of the ministry’s probe for being “vague,” saying they do not offer any explanation as to why her husband felt compelled to take his life.
On June 15, she submitted the petition with 352,659 signatures collected online from late March to Abe and Aso through lawyers representing her that demands a third-party re-investigation into the scandal.
Both Abe and Aso had refused to mount a new investigation into the matter during Diet proceedings.
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