TOKYO (TR) – Japan’s prime minister denied an allegation he donated one million yen to a school billed by a scandal-hit educational body as “Japan’s first and only Shinto elementary school” at the Diet on Friday.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dismissed as “absurd” explosive claims by Yasunori Kagoike, chairman of Moritomo Gakuen, that he received the donation from Abe, TBS News reports (Mar. 17).
Over the past month, Moritomo Gakuen has been embroiled in a scandal over its purchase of government-owned land in Osaka’s Toyonaka City from the Ministry of Finance at a price far below market value for the school, which it planned to open on the site in the spring.
Due to the controversy, Kagoike earlier announced the cancellation of the application to open the school affiliated with Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, which aims for “a beautiful, traditional sovereignty for Japan’s future.”
Since the low-ball price was revealed last month, speculation has swirled as to what led to the deal. Nobuyuki Fukushima, a lawmaker of the opposition Democratic Party, pressed Abe about Kagoike’s allegation at the Diet.
“At a meeting with the Budget Committee of the upper house of the Diet yesterday, chairman Kagoike [said he was told by Ms. Akie Abe, ‘Please, if you would use this,’ when she gave a lecture on September 5, 2015,” Fukushima said. “When [Kagoike said he] asked, ‘Who is this [donation] from?’ she replied that it was ‘from Shinzo Abe.’ The committee asked [Kagoike] how much it was, and he replied, ‘One million yen.’ I would like to ask the prime minister for his views once again.”
Abe replied that he “has never met one-on-one with Mr. Kagoike, as I had told the Diet. I have been explaining many times, and there is no personal relationship.”
“In this way, it’s absurd for me to have made a donation of such a large amount, and [none] was not made through a third party such as my wife or the office,” Abe said.
Abe declared once again that he never donated to Moritomo Gakuen, and that his wife had also never donated in a private capacity.
No record, receipt
Akie Abe was once listed as honorary principal on the website of the school, named Mizuho no Kuni Kinen Shogakuin.
“My wife was once an honorary principal, so I checked with her just to be safe, but there is no record of a receipt or anything like that, and I state that she had also not made a private donation,” Abe said.
Fukushima questioned the erasure of Abe’s name from a donation receipt, which was pointed out by nonfiction writer Tamotsu Sugano.
“A person called Mr. Sugano appears to be leaking information about Kagoike, so it’s an incredibly doubtful story, and, of course, I believe we should pay close attention to this report,” Fukushima said. “We should take all possible measures and investigate once again, but what does the prime minister think about that?”
Abe responded: “Is committee member Fukushima questioning whether this is true? I myself am not aware of that, so I can’t answer, but I am saying that what’s not there isn’t there.”
Several emails to Kagoike’s wife
Abe also said he exchanged several emails with Kagoike’s wife since February 28 to reconfirm that Akie didn’t accept remunerations over a lecture she gave in the past.
“I’m aware that there have been a number of email exchanges, and I’ve seen the content, but I think the content has no problems at all,” Abe said. “There’s no problem making them public if necessary if both parties agree, since it’s personal correspondence.”
The Diet agreed to formally summon Kagoike next week to a budget committee meeting of the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors next week.
Kagoike will face charges of perjury if he lies during his testimony.