Economy

Minister: Files altered in scam dogging Abe

Minister: Files altered in scam dogging Abe

Japan's finance minister is considering skipping a Group of 20 finance leaders' gathering in Buenos Aires next week, Japanese media reported, as a suspected cover-up of a cronyism scandal paralyses parliament and puts his job on the line.

Abe, now in his sixth year in office, has denied he or his wife did favours for the school operator Moritomo Gakuen and has said he would resign if evidence were found that they had.

The school's far-right operator claims to have connections to Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie, who was named as an "honourary principal", prompting allegations of favouritism.

Suspicions of a cover-up could slash Abe's ratings and dash his hopes of a third term as leader of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

The PM is coming under growing pressure to sack Aso, who also serves as his deputy - but even that might not placate opposition parties and the public.

"This situation has shaken public trust in the whole administration, and as its head, I feel responsibility and deeply apologise to the people".

"I apologize to all of the people".

"As we continue to investigate the case so something like this will never happen again, it's important to regain trust", Aso told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

Shinichi Nishikawa, a professor of politics at Meiji University in Tokyo, said the revelation would deal a "heavy blow" to the Abe administration.

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The risk now for Aso and Abe, experts said, is that the suspected cover-up does more damage than the land sale itself.

But the issue resurfaced earlier this month when a Japanese newspaper reported that documents relating to the land sale had been changed before being submitted to parliament, which was examining the issue at the time. It said one document originally noted that the school operator was involved with a powerful pro-Abe political lobby, Nippon Kaigi, of which Abe was vice chairman, but that comment had later been deleted.

"At the very least, it seems that Mr Aso's chances of surviving as Finance Minister are diminishing rapidly", Tobias Harris, vice president of consultancy Teneo Intelligence, wrote in an email. He said there was no "smoking gun" showing direct intervention by Abe or his wife.

While the ruling Liberal Democratic Party intends to reject the demand, some LDP members are now saying they should summon him, with a mid-ranking LDP member saying, "We have no choice but to summon Sagawa to make it clear who altered the documents for what goal".

Forged documents, a crooked property deal, a suicide and a nationalist kindergarten where children are taught the ways of prewar militarism: after a year of scandal these shady elements have come together in a political crisis that threatens to overwhelm Shinzo Abe, Japan's right-wing prime minister. It was a rare comeback for the conservative lawmaker, who quit abruptly in 2007 after a year in office marked by scandals in his cabinet, a deadlocked parliament and ill health.

A new poll released by public broadcaster NHK on Tuesday showed support for the Abe government dropped to the lowest since he won a resounding re-election in October.

The scandal has for one time drastically brought down the Abe administration's support ratings, and according to multiple media polls, the majority of those surveyed believed that the government had not given sufficient explanations on the scandal.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Kitco Metals Inc. Non-support rose to 42 percent and 80 percent said that the matter had not been handled appropriately. This article is strictly for informational purposes only.


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