TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Finance Minister Taro Aso has taken a voluntary one-year salary cut after 20 officials were penalized for tampering with documents related to a government property sale linked to the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife.
The Finance Ministry has acknowledged tampering with hundreds of pages of documents related to the 2016 land sale to a school where Akie Abe briefly held an honorary position.
Aso apologized Monday over the tampering by lower level officials and resulting damage to public trust, but said Akie Abe was not directly involved.
“I would like to do my best to fulfill my duty as the finance minister,” Aso said. “I am not thinking about resigning.”
The scandal relates to the sale of government land to a right-wing school operator, Moritomo Gakuen group in Osaka, at one-seventh of its appraised price. There are allegations Akie Abe’s influence might have enabled Moritomo to get favorable treatment for a planned new private elementary school.
Abe has denied any wrongdoing by him or his wife. The tampering with the documents, including removing references to his wife, took place in February-April 2017. The fiddling was done to ensure the documents matched explanations by Abe to parliament during questioning about the scandal, Aso said.
Scandals have caused Abe’s support ratings to fall as low as the mid-30 percent range. But so far there is no indication they might force him from office.
Nobuhisa Sagawa, who headed a Finance Ministry department in charge of state property deals at the time, stepped down in March over the document tampering.
Sagawa will have a cut in his retirement allowance equivalent to a three-month suspension.
Other officials took pay cuts and were suspended from work.