Japan ministry 'to admit doctoring documents linked to Abe cronyism row'

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech to commemorate the opening of a road connecting the Fukushima Prefecture cities of Soma and Date in the city of Date, on March 10, 2018.

The heavily discounted land deal in Osaka involving a school operator at the center of favoritism allegations against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has drawn renewed attention following a report that relevant Finance Ministry documents were falsified. Opposition lawmakers said they would further scrutinize the scandal.

Police are investigating the death of the official in Kobe in western Japan and suspect he committed suicide, Jiji Press and Kyodo News reported, citing unnamed police sources. The ministry declined to provide additional details.

The latest twist in the land sale scandal has seen the former head of the ministry's Kinki bureau, who had come under fire for allegedly making false remarks about the sale to the Diet previous year, resign on Friday from his subsequent job as head of the National Tax Agency.

The ministry on Monday will report to the parliament that some of the descriptions in the land sale documents were removed before being submitted to MPs, local media said.

The transaction involved a plot of land in Osaka Prefecture that was sold to Moritomo Gakuen in 2016 for around 134 million yen ($1.3 million), much less than its appraised value of 956 million yen.

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After the scandal broke in February past year, Sagawa appeared in the Diet to answer questions about the deal. Sagawa later acknowledged destroying some documents related to the scandal, triggering an investigation by authorities.

Mr Abe has said his wife only "reluctantly" accepted the post of honorary principal, and has since "resigned". The Abes are known to have supported the school's ultra-nationalist philosophy of education.

Aso said Sagawa received a salary cut for his handling of the scandal, indicating that his resignation was virtually a dismissal.

The unidentified official, who was found dead on Wednesday, was at the heart of a scandal over the cut-price sale of government-owned land to a close friend of Abe, the reports said. "I believe this is a matter over which politicians should take political responsibility", Kiyomi Tsujimoto told reporters.

Abe and finance officials have denied any wrongdoing in the scandal, which has caused parliamentary sessions to grind to a halt.

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