Japan Finance Ministry set to admit altering land deal papers

By Linda Sieg and Tetsushi Kajimoto

It would also ratchet up the pressure on Finance Minister Taro Aso, who said he had no intention to step down over the affair which led to the resignation on Friday of the National Tax Agency chief, Nobuhisa Sagawa.

Sagawa was director-general of the financial bureau of the finance ministry at the time of the land sale.

That followed revelations that the finance ministry had retained documents that officials had said no longer existed.

Opposition party lawmakers wanted to know how the decision for the sale was reached and if the relationship between the former director of Moritomo Gakuen and Akie Abe, the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, played any role in the favorable terms given. The emergence of a voice recording cast doubt on Sagawa's claim.

The scandal regained fresh momentum last week with opposition parties turning up the heat after the Asahi newspaper said some documents about the land sale might have been doctored. The controversial land deal recently drew fresh attention but it is unclear whether the official's death is related to the dubious transaction.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Aso, respectively, admitted they heard that the official had died, without elaborating further.

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It remains to be seen though whether Umtiti is prepared to sacrifice a career at the Camp Nou for a move to Old Trafford. According to the report, United representatives are having "constant meetings" with Umtiti's brother and agent, Yannick.

Police are investigating the death of the official in Kobe in western Japan and suspect he committed suicide, with some media reporting a suicide note had been found.

The 8,770-square-meter plot in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, was sold to Moritomo Gakuen in June 2016 for about 134 million yen ($1.26 million) to build a new elementary school, compared with its appraised value of 956 million yen.

The scandal has dogged Abe since it first emerged last February, though the prime minister has consistently denied any wrongdoing and his approval ratings remain solid with political opposition to him weak. But the Board of Audit of Japan said in November the discount happened because the price was not properly calculated.

He insisted that regional bureau officials did not negotiate a price with Moritomo. The report alleged some parts of the documents submitted to the Diet past year were different from the originals.

Kagoike and his wife Junko have been indicted on unrelated subsidy fraud charges.

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