Author: Don Obrien

Japan Finance Ministry declines to disclose info on document-tampering scandal

The Ministry of Finance building is seen in Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki bureaucracy hub. (Mainichi/Kiyohiro Akama)

OSAKA — The Ministry of Finance has decided not to release material related to the document-tampering scandal concerning the heavily discounted state-land sale to nationalist school operator Moritomo Gakuen, following a disclosure request from the widow of a ministry employee who killed himself in distress over doctoring government documents, it was learned on Oct. 13.

Masako Akagi, 50, is seeking to uncover the truth behind the death of her husband, Toshio, a then employee of the Ministry of Finance’s Kinki Local Finance Bureau who took his own life in 2018 at age 54. According to Masako’s attorney, the ministry’s latest decision came on Oct. 11. She intends to file a complaint with the ministry.

The Finance Ministry concluded in a report released in June 2018 that Nobuhisa Sagawa, then head of the ministry’s Financial Bureau, determined the direction of the alteration of ministry documents on the property sale, and moved forward with systematic tampering at the Kinki finance bureau. The “Akagi file,” in which the late official left detailed records of how the documents came to be altered, includes email exchanges between the ministry and finance bureau.

However, Masako made a further request in August this year that the ministry and finance bureau disclose documents the ministry collected in its scandal probe as well as materials it voluntarily submitted to the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office. She did so claiming many facts were still unveiled, including on detailed exchanges within Sagawa’s Financial Bureau.

In the letter notifying its decision, the ministry explained its reasoning not to disclose, stating: “If documents related to the inspection (over the matter) were to become public, we would not be able to receive the necessary cooperation for similar investigations.” It also read, “The documents in question are incomplete information acquired in the probe’s process. Therefore, disclosing them could risk causing unnecessary confusion among the public.”

Regarding material submitted to prosecutors, the ministry didn’t even disclose whether it exists, claiming it would “expose the content of investigative activities (by prosecutors).” The Kinki finance bureau has already announced its decision not to disclose the documents.

Masako told the Mainichi Shimbun, “I had hoped some kind of documents would come up, so this is very unfortunate. The Finance Ministry’s organizational culture apparently doesn’t allow information disclosure unless you make requests multiple times, so I hope to continue asking for the documents.”

(Japanese original by Shiho Matsumoto, Osaka City News Department)

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Oliver Bolt

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