Japan finance ministry confirms death of official in scandal

By Linda Sieg and Tetsushi Kajimoto

Media reports said the land was sold for around a tenth of its market value, and that the kindergarten had announced plans to name Abe's wife Akie the honorary principal of a primary school being built on the same plot.

A Finance Ministry official linked to a scandal involving the wife of Japan's prime minister has been found dead, the ministry confirmed Friday, and a second official resigned. The report alleged some parts of the documents submitted to the Diet a year ago were different from the originals. Sagawa was frequently summoned to parliament past year to explain the government's handling of the scandal, and his blunt and impatient responses sparked public criticism.

The employee worked in the department of the ministry managing state-owned assets, according to Jiji. The emergence of a voice recording cast doubt on Sagawa's claim.

The opposition has accused ministry officials of hiding some key documents and colluding to cover up the scandal.

In a rare move, Sagawa had not yet held an inauguration press conference since assuming the post of National Tax Agency head last July, apparently for fear of being grilled over the Moritomo issue.

The body of the unidentified ministry official, who was in charge of state property transactions in western Japan, was found in his home this week, the ministry and media reports said.

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The official belonged to a department in charge of the land transaction in February a year ago, when the issue first came to light.

He became caught up in the scandal relating to the sale of the property by a regional Finance Ministry bureau to private school operator Moritomo Gakuen in Osaka in 2016.

The ministry has said the heavily discounted price of the land was due to the cost of removing buried waste at the site.

Abe has denied that he or his wife did favors for the operator of the school, Moritomo Gakuen.

But opposition parties have turned up the heat again after the Asahi newspaper reported that some documents about the land sale may have been doctored.

But the ministry on Thursday released what are essentially the same documents as those previously disclosed to lawmakers and refused to clarify whether they have been revised as reported, citing a continuing internal probe.

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