Abe's popularity slides following land sale scandal

Cheryl Sanders
March 30, 2018

Sagawa told parliament Tuesday in Tokyo that neither Abe, nor his wife or Finance Minister Taro Aso asked for the papers on the deal to be altered.

Sagawa is expected to shed light on the scandal that has dogged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government and dented his approval rating.

The land in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, was sold in June 2016 for less than $1.3 million, but has a market value of more than $7 million.

The prime minister's wife, Akie Abe, was initially the honorary principal of a new school on the land, sparking allegations of favoritism.

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However, the official declined to answer detailed questioning about how and when documents were altered, saying he was under criminal investigation. But one opposition lawmaker said the testimony had "deepened" doubts.

She said she felt the government was angling to bring the scandal to an end by having the Financial Bureau conceding sole responsibility.

Prosecutors in Osaka have also been interviewing Finance Ministry officials at their own volition as part of a broader probe into the document-tampering scandal.

Sagawa had been under pressure from opposition parties for allegedly making false parliamentary remarks while serving as director general of the ministry's Financial Bureau.

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But Sagawa's refusal to answer numerous questions by stating that as the case is now subject to prosecutors' investigation so that he could face possible criminal prosecution, meant that the bureaucrat did little to advance the proceedings, which irked both opposition and some members from within the ruling camp.

Abe has repeatedly apologized over the scandal, denying that either he or his wife were involved in the transaction or the adjustment of documents.

The opposition has repeatedly called on Abe and Akie to testify in the parliament, a demand which Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has rejected.

During Tuesday's proceedings, hundreds of protestors, including opposition party members, gathered outside the Diet building shouting "Tell the truth!"

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