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Moritomo head stands by Abe donation claim in Diet testimony

March 23, 2017

TOKYO- In sworn testimony before parliament on Thursday, Yasunori Kagoike, outgoing head of controversial school operator Moritomo Gakuen, reiterated his claim that the group received a donation of one million yen from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe via his wife, Akie.

On an unusual discount sale of state land to the group for its planned elementary school in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, western Japan, Kagoike said in the testimony, “I suppose there was political involvement.”
Abe has flatly denied making any donations to Moritomo Gakuen, based in the city of Osaka. At a press conference on Thursday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “We believe there was no donation (from Abe to the group).”At a hearing by the Budget Committee of the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, Kagoike insisted that he was handed one million yen in an envelope from Abe’s wife when they met one on one during her visit to Moritomo Gakuen’s kindergarten in the city of Osaka on Sept. 5, 2015.
“She handed me one million -35Abe,” Kagoike said. “I remember this clearly as it (the donation) was quite an honor.”
Later at a hearing by the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber, Kagoike said that after receiving the money, he was asked by Akie Abe by phone to keep the donation secret.
In the Upper House committee, he said he gave 100,000 yen to her for a lecture she delivered during the kindergarten visit.
“I confirmed the envelope’s content to be one million yen and put it in a safe,” said the Moritomo Gakuen head, noting that a staff member of the kindergarten visited a nearby post office two days later to deposit the money into the group’s account.
Kagoike denied he has ever made a direct request to the prime minister. But he said, “I have consulted with his wife about various issues.”According to Kagoike, he tried to contact Abe’s wife via mobile phone in October 2015 to ask for support for the state land purchase. In the following month, he received a fax from a government official serving the first lady that declined the request.
He also revealed that, after the shady land deal came into the media spotlight this year, his wife received an email from Akie Abe late last month that “can be taken as a demand to keep our mouth shut.”
The discount of about 800 million yen, or 86 pct, from the appraised value for the 8,770-square-meter land in question was “unexpectedly large” and “surprising,” Kagoike noted.
While mentioning possible political intervention in the land deal, he denied giving any bribes to politicians.
Kagoike suggested that National Tax Agency Commissioner Hidenori Sakota could provide the Diet with explanations on the land sale. At the time of negotiations on the controversial land deal, Sakota was director-general of the Finance Ministry’s Financial Bureau, which manages state-owned land sale.
Elsewhere in the Upper House testimony, Kagoike disclosed the names of some prefectural assembly members and national lawmakers whom he said he asked for support to gain the Osaka prefectural government’s approval for the planned elementary school and have the prefecture’s school establishment criteria relaxed.
The national lawmakers include Takuji Yanagimoto of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Toru Azuma of Nippon Ishin no Kai, an opposition party.
Both are Upper House members elected.
Meanwhile, the Moritomo Gakuen chief refused to comment on the existence of three different documents on its school construction contract, citing the possibility of facing criminal charges.
Any false remarks in sworn testimony before the Diet are penalized with a prison term between three months and 10 years. (Jiji Press)