POLITICS MAR. 16, 2017 – 06:00PM JST ( 27 )
Scandal-hit school operator says he received donation from Abe
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
The head of a school operator mired in controversy over its cut-price purchase of a plot of state-owned land in western Japan said Thursday he received a donation from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for the elementary school that was to open on the site.
Speaking to ruling and opposition lawmakers visiting the site, Yasunori Kagoike, the head of operator Moritomo Gakuen, said, “Money donated by Abe was included in” the funds for the school.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, said in a press conference in Tokyo hours later that Abe had denied the alleged donation.
The school, located in the city of Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, was being built on the 8,770-square-meter plot that the operator bought from the government in June last year for 134 million yen ($1.17 million)—only around 14 percent of its appraised value.
The funds for the school were allegedly raised using Abe’s name at one point. Abe’s wife, Akie, was to serve as the school’s honorary principal but resigned after questions were raised about the controversial land deal and the policies of a kindergarten run by the school operator.
Abe said neither he nor his wife was involved in the land deal and has pledged to resign as prime minister and lawmaker should their involvement in the deal be proven.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Tomomi Inada was forced to continue defending herself amid opposition calls for her to resign following her retraction of remarks made in parliament earlier this week.
On Tuesday, she apologized for initially denying having ever given Moritomo Gakuen legal advice or represented it in a trial, admitting that she had represented the school operator as a lawyer in a civil case hearing before she was elected to parliament.
The opposition is intensifying its pressure on the defense minister, alleging that she lied to parliament, while at the same time pursuing her over a fresh allegation that the Ground Self-Defense Force had destroyed electronic data on its peacekeeping mission in South Sudan in a coverup.
“She cannot ward off public distrust,” said Yoshio Urushibara, a senior member of the Komeito party, the junior coalition partner of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party.
In connection with her past legal work for Moritomo Gakuen, Inada told parliament on Thursday that it was only after the latest controversy came to light that she learned that her husband had forged a contract with the school operator to provide legal counsel. Her husband, Ryuji Inada, is also a lawyer, and both belonged to the same firm.
“As much as I wanted to share this information with you, I refrained from making it public because my husband is a private citizen and I have an obligation to maintain confidentiality,” she said in parliament. Inada also told parliament that her father was acquainted with Kagoike, but she does not believe he was close to him.