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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 April 3 - 9  > PM Abe should reflect on prosecution inquest panel’s decision and uncover full truth behind ‘Moritomo’ scandal
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2019 April 3 - 9 [POLITICS]

PM Abe should reflect on prosecution inquest panel’s decision and uncover full truth behind ‘Moritomo’ scandal

April 3, 2019
Akahata editorial (excerpts)

The Osaka No.1 committee for the Inquest of Prosecution in regard to the “Moritomo” favoritism scandal has ruled that public prosecutors unfairly made a decision to not indict the former Finance Ministry financial bureau chief Sagawa Nobuhisa and other government officials who had allegedly been involved in the scandal. Following the committee’s ruling, the Osaka District Public Prosecutors’ Office will again investigate the matter.

It is significant that the independent judicial panel comprising of 11 appointees from among citizens recognized non-indictment of the government bureaucrats as unjust and urged the prosecutors’ office to reinvestigate the allegation. The need is for the prosecutors’ office to undertake a thorough probe into the case and for the government to fulfill its responsibility to uncover the whole truth behind the scandal.

The “Moritomo” scandal surfaced in February 2017 with the revelation that the Osaka-based school corporation Moritomo Gakuen had purchased national land in Osaka’s Toyonaka City at a massive 800-million-yen discount off the market price. It also came to light that Prime Minister Abe and his wife Akie had close ties with the Moritomo school corporation. Accordingly, the scandal shook the government.

Regarding the sale of national land at such an extraordinary low price, civil groups had filed a criminal complaint against Sagawa and other government officials with the Osaka District Public Prosecutors’ Office. The civil groups claimed that the accused government bureaucrats made false statements, including a “There is no record of negotiations on land deal” statement, in line with PM Abe’s responses in Diet deliberations. The civil groups also demanded that the cover-up and falsification of Moritomo-related official documents be investigated.

In May 2018, the special investigation department of the Osaka District Public Prosecutors’ Office decided to drop the case supposedly due to insufficient evidence and other unspecified reasons. Not satisfied with this decision, concerned citizens brought the case to the prosecution inquest panel.

With the recent ruling by the panel, prosecutors are obliged to reexamine the case in a thorough manner. Furthermore, government responsibility is called into question. The Abe government has been refusing to summon the first lady and other key persons to the Diet as sworn witnesses and has refused to disclose all the Moritomo-related documents. This hampers efforts to uncover the backroom deals behind the national land sale to Moritomo.

In the “Moritomo” favoritism scandal, the selling of state land which is public property was carried out in an improper way and official documents which also constitute public assets were altered and hidden. False statements before the Diet as well as the alteration and concealment of official documents have a serious impact not only on the authority of the Diet but also on people’s right to access information. The Abe government should accept the demand to call key persons, including the PM’s wife, to provide testimony before the Diet in order to fulfill its accountability.

Past related articles:
> Suspicions about alteration of 'Moritomo'-related documents deepened by Sagawa's testimony: JCP Chair [JMarch 28, 2018]
> Abe’s wife should explain her involvement in ‘Moritomo’ scandal before Diet [March 20, 2018]
> Finance Ministry admits to falsification of official documents regarding state land sale to Moritomo [March 13, 2018]
> Shii: Diet discussions on ‘Moritomo’ and ‘Kake’ scandals without Abe is out of the question [July 6, 2017]
> Abe’s wife-associated school corporation gets national land at exceptionally low price [February 11, 2017]
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