Government to pay damages for suicide linked to Moritomo Gakuen scandal

The Japanese government said on Wednesday it had agreed to pay damages to the wife of a former finance ministry bureaucrat who alleges her husband committed suicide after being ordered to falsify related documents allegations of favoritism against then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The decision to pay around 100 million yen in compensation requested by Masako Akagi, 50, ends the complaint filed almost two years ago between the state and the plaintiff and ensures that the detailed process leading up to the amendment documents will not be revealed.

“I feel like I lost (in the costume),” Akagi said tearfully at a press conference in Osaka, after officials said the government had come to believe that ‘it was “not appropriate to prolong the proceedings unnecessarily”.

“The ministry cowardly ended the prosecution. I wonder what my husband would say, ”she said, adding that what she wanted was not money but the truth.

Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki spoke to ministry reporters in Tokyo on Wednesday. | KYODO

Her husband Toshio Akagi committed suicide at the age of 54 in March 2018. She claims he suffered from severe mental distress.

“The state ended the trial during a closed-door consultation,” his lawyer said at a press conference, adding that the government had given no prior notification. “I believe the state has facts it wants to hide.”

The trial will continue with the remaining defendant Nobuhisa Sagawa, then head of the finance office of the ministry responsible for the management of state assets. Complainant alleges Sagawa ordered his subordinates from February to March 2017 to amend documents regarding a heavily discounted sale of state-owned land to a private school operator linked to Abe’s wife , Akie.

Akie Abe was the honorary principal of an elementary school that was to be opened by Moritomo Gakuen, an educational institution in Osaka and the purchaser of the public land in question.

Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki offered his apologies and condolences to the family of the former ministry official after the decision was announced.

The ministry withdrew its earlier appeal to the Osaka District Court to dismiss Akagi’s complaint because “we came to the conclusion that it was clear that the ministry bears responsibility” for his death, Suzuki told reporters, adding that the official had been overworked dealing with Moritomo Gakuen, including editing the document.

The minister said the government made the decision after the complainant’s entire argument became clear at the court’s previous hearing in October.

The finance ministry admitted to falsifying documents related to the land transaction, while Sagawa denied any personal responsibility.

Former prime ministers Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga attend a special parliamentary session in Tokyo on December 6.  |  AFP-JIJI
Former prime ministers Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga attend a special parliamentary session in Tokyo on December 6. | AFP-JIJI

According to the lawyer, it is extremely rare for the state to accept the complainant’s request as it stands.

In a report on its investigation into the forgery of documents in June 2018, the ministry admitted that Sagawa ordered officials to forge and delete parts of documents related to Akie Abe.

The complainant asked Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to re-investigate the case as the report made no reference to the death of her husband, who worked in the ministry’s Kinki local finance office.

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