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Working Timeline of the Moritomo Gakuen Scandal

SNA (Tokyo) — The Moritomo Gakuen school affair was the first of the major scandals that shook the government of Shinzo Abe beginning in February 2017. The following is a working timeline which the Shingetsu News Agency intends to fill out and update in the weeks and months ahead.

The original draft was compiled by Gabrielle Fournier Connell, but revisions and additions have been made by Michael Penn and others.

2015

January: Moritomo Gakuen’s Mizuho no Kuni Elementary School officially authorized and given permission to build.

September: First Lady Akie Abe meets with the Yasunori and Junko Kagoike and delivers speeches at Moritomo Gakuen. She accepts Kagoike’s offer to become the honorary principal.

November: Saeko Tani, aide to the first lady, makes contact with the Finance Ministry on Akie’s behalf during the land price negotiations.

December: Construction of the Mizuho no Kuni elementary school begins.

2017

February: Asahi Shinbun breaks the story that Moritomo Gakuen bought government land for a fraction of the price of comparable plots. In regard to suspicions of his involvement, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tells the Diet that he will resign as prime minister and as a Diet member if it turns out either he or his wife were involved with the Moritomo Gakuen land sale.  Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga holds talks with officials of the Finance Ministry’s Financial Bureau. Four days later, the land sale documents begin to be altered, deleting references to Akie Abe and others. Akie steps down from her role as honorary principal.

March: In sworn Diet testimony, Moritomo Gakuen Principal Kagoike declares that he had received a 1 million yen (about US$9,400) cash donation from the prime minister via his wife Akie. Finance Ministry official Nobuhisa Sagawa falsely testifies in the Diet that all documents pertaining to the land sale are no longer available in the ministry. Finance Minister Taro Aso declares that the land sale was carried out with proper procedures and pricing. Construction of the Mizuho no Kuni elementary school is suspended.

April: Three video clips of Akie Abe’s Moritomo Gakuen speeches are posted to the AkieLeaks website and reported by media. Moritomo Gakuen files for bankruptcy.

June: The Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office stages overnight raids on Moritomo Gakuen offices on suspicion of defrauding authorities to receive subsidies. In one of the searches, the prosecutors away about a hundred cardboard boxes of seized items.

July: Nobuhisa Sagawa appointed the head of the National Tax Agency. Yasunori and Junko Kagoike are arrested on fraud charges and kept in custody.

September: The Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office questions Finance Ministry officials on a “voluntary” basis, after accepting criminal complaints about a possible breach of trust

2018

February: House of Councillors lawmaker Kotaro Tatsumi of the Japan Communist Party presents previously unreleased audio recordings of the land negotiations. Demonstrators demand the dismissal of National Tax Agency Commissioner Nobuhisa Sagawa.

March: Asahi Shinbun breaks the story that the Finance Ministry may have altered official documents related to the land sale.  Toshio Akagi, a regional Finance Ministry official from section overseeing the land sale is found dead in an apparent suicide. Nobuhisa Sagawa resigns as National Tax Agency chief resigns later that same day. The Finance Ministry reluctantly admits that it had altered official documents, including the deletion of references to Akie Abe and several other politicians. Nobuhisa Sagawa gives his testimony in the Diet in which he tried to clear Abe and claimed his own legal jeopardy prevented him from speaking freely. Construction company officials say they were pressured to inflate the volume of waste on state-owned land that was later sold to Moritomo Gakuen.

May: The Finance Ministry submits 950 pages of original documents to the Diet, covering the period from June 2013 to June 2016, which Nobuhisa Sagawa had previously testified did not exist. Yasunori and Junko Kagoike freed on bail after ten months in custody. Osaka prosecutors announce they would not try to indict Sagawa. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he does not need to resign because neither he nor his wife accepted bribes, moving the goalposts from his original declaration of total uninvolvement.

June: Finance Ministry announces disciplinary measures against twenty officials involved in falsifying official documents related to the land sale. Taro Aso returns a portion of his salary but reiterates that he will not step down. A citizens group petitions for Sagawa to be indicted. Board of Audit says that it will conduct a second investigation of the land sale.

To be expanded and continued…

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