This article titled “Japan cronyism scandal linked to Shinzo Abe and wife worsens with suicide note” was written by Daniel Hurst in Tokyo, for theguardian.com on Friday 16th March 2018 10.22 Asia/Kolkata
A cronyism scandal engulfing the Japanese government has taken a dark turn, with reports that a finance official left a note before his suicide saying that he was forced to rewrite crucial records.
The finance ministry admitted this week that it had altered 14 documents surrounding the sale of public land at an 85% discount to a nationalistic school operator with links to prime minister Shinzo Abe’s wife Akie.
The revisions, made early last year, included removing references to Abe and the first lady before the records were provided to parliamentarians investigating suspicions of influence-peddling.
An official from the local finance bureau that oversaw the transaction was found dead at his home in Kobe last week. Now it has been revealed the man, aged in his 50s, left a detailed suicide note stating he was worried he might be forced to take all the blame.
He said his superiors had told him to change the background section of the official documents surrounding the Osaka land sale because they were supposedly too specific, according to public broadcaster NHK. He reportedly made it clear that he did not act alone but in line with finance ministry instructions.
His family described him as an honourable man who “hated to do anything unfair”. He had told relatives in August last year that he was “worn out both mentally and physically” and his “common sense has been destroyed”.
“I hope everything will be revealed. I don’t want his death to be wasted,” said a family member quoted by the Mainichi Shimbun.
In a sign of the growing pressure on the government, Taro Aso, the deputy prime minister, cancelled his appearance at a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Argentina next week to fight for his political future. Aso is a key factional powerbroker so there would be risks to the prime minister’s own support base if Aso is forced out as finance minister.
Abe has previously said he would resign if he or his wife were shown to be personally involved in the land deal with school operator Moritomo Gakuen. On Wednesday he again denied any involvement.
- In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here
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