Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is facing charges of corruption and a cover-up, including doctored official documents, that could imperil his re-election prospects and throw Japanese government into turmoil at a crucial moment in the North Korean nuclear crisis.
The controversy began two years ago with the sale of land to Moritomo Gakuen, a chain of private elementary schools with a conservative and nationalist curriculum.
Accusations were made that Moritomo got a sweetheart deal on the Osaka land by abusing the political connections of former operator Yasunori Kagoike and his wife Junko, in particular, their ties to Finance Minister Taro Aso and Akie Abe, the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The situation went from uncomfortable charges of cronyism to a full-blown national scandal when Japanese media discovered that Ministry of Finance documents related to the case had been doctored to remove potentially embarrassing information about Mrs. Abe visiting the Moritomo Gakuen school and also about Abe and Taro’s ties to a conservative lobbying group called Nippon Kaigi.
Hundreds of angry protesters gathered outside the prime minister’s headquarters on Monday to demand the resignation of not only Finance Minister Taro Aso, who is also the deputy prime minister, but also Prime Minister Shinzo Abe himself.