Official linked to Abe cronyism row found dead

Japan's finance ministry will admit altering documents related to cronyism allegations against Shinzo Abe, local media reported Sunday, a major blow to the premier who enjoys relatively high public support.

On the day of Mr Sagawa's resignation, press reports said the police were investigating as a possible suicide the death of an official at a Finance Ministry bureau that handled the land deal.

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

National Tax Agency head Nobuhisa Sagawa has made a decision to step down to take responsibility over the controversy linked to a state-owned land sale, a government source said Friday.

Following The Asahi Shimbun report, the opposition camp demanded that the ministry submit the original documents, which Asahi reported have been doctored.

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.

The latest twist in the land sale scandal has seen the former head of the ministry's Kinki bureau, who had come under fire for allegedly making false remarks about the sale to the Diet past year, resign on Friday from his subsequent job as head of the National Tax Agency.

The Japanese government on Friday approved the resignation of Nobuhisa Sagawa as Commissioner of the National Tax Agency after more than a year of controversy over the sale of a plot of state-owned land.

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

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.

Abe's wife Akie had been named honorary principal of the planned school, but she stepped down in February a year ago after the details of the sale began to attract public scrutiny. Mr Abe has said his wife only "reluctantly" accepted the post of honorary principal, and has since "resigned".

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