Ex-Finance official says no instructions from Abe to alter documents

Former US president Barack Obama is greeted by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in front of a sushi restaurant in the Ginza shopping district of Tokyo

Former US president Barack Obama is greeted by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in front of a sushi restaurant in the Ginza shopping district of Tokyo

Japan's former national tax agency chief is denying any involvement from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe or the first lady in the manipulation of documents pertaining to an illicit land sale to Moritomo Gakuen, a school foundation with links to Akie Abe.

A finance official said that 14 items had been altered in the documents after February a year ago at the instruction of the ministry's financial division in order to match parliamentary testimony.

The scandal first emerged previous year when Asahi reported that educational foundation Moritomo Gakuen, with alleged ties to Abe and his wife, bought government land for a fraction of the price of comparable plots.

A former official has told Japanese lawmakers the prime minister and his wife did not tamper with Finance Ministry documents.

Finance minister Aso said on Monday he would not resign.

The row deepened when the finance ministry admitted official records of the sale were altered, with references to Abe, his wife, and Finance Minister Taro Aso scrubbed.

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Numerous victims were children as the mall's shops, cinema and bowling alley were packed due to school holidays. One official said earlier in the day that 41 children between the ages of 2 and 17 were either dead or missing.

But Sagawa, who recently resigned as head of the National Tax Office in response to the scandal, refused to answer questions about how and when the documents were edited, citing an ongoing criminal investigation.

Abe, speaking at a parliamentary committee, said Japanese steel products were helping to make USA auto makers more competitive and cheaper for American consumers.

Kiyomi Tsujimoto of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan blasted Sagawa's testimony as "betraying public expectations".

The opposition camp henceforth are eying to summon Akie Abe and other senior politicians to give testimony while Osaka-based prosecutors are stepping up their investigations into the matter and getting information pertinent to the ordering of the document alterations, sources with knowledge of the matter said Tuesday.

According to a Nikkei Group survey conducted on March 23-25, the approval rating of the Abe administration was 42%, down 14 points from the previous survey a month ago.

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