Ex-head of school operator held over subsidy fraud

TOKYO • Japanese prosecutors yesterday arrested the former head of a school operator with ties to Mrs Akie Abe, the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on suspicion of illegally receiving subsidies, the media said, reviving a months-old scandal.

Mr Abe's public support is crumbling, hit by scandals over suspected cronyism, a Defence Ministry cover-up that forced the resignation of his protege, former defence minister Tomomi Inada, and voter perceptions of his growing arrogance.

Prosecutors in the western city of Osaka arrested Mr Yasunori Kagoike, the former chief of educational institution Moritomo Gakuen, and his wife Junko for fraudulently receiving state subsidies to build an elementary school, Kyodo news agency said.

In applying for the subsidies, Moritomo Gakuen submitted a document showing building costs of 2.38 billion yen (S$29 million), but the figure was suspected to have been padded up to attract greater subsidies, Kyodo quoted unnamed investigative sources as saying.

Before his arrest, Mr Kagoike had denied any wrongdoing, the agency added.

Besides the subsidies, opposition parties raised questions about Moritomo Gakuen's purchase of land for the new school. Mrs Abe had been set to become its honorary principal.

The operator bought land owned by the state for just 14 per cent of the appraisal price, Finance Ministry data showed, a discount officials have said was intended to account for cleanup costs.

In applying for the subsidies, Moritomo Gakuen submitted a document showing building costs of 2.38 billion yen (S$29 million), but the figure was suspected to have been padded to attract greater subsidies.

Mr Abe has said neither he nor his wife intervened in the land deal or helped the school get accredited.

Mrs Abe cut ties with the elementary school after the scandal broke earlier this year.

In another scandal, Mr Abe has repeatedly denied having done any favours to help a friend - Mr Kotaro Kake, the director of educational institution Kake Gakuen - win approval for a veterinary school in a special economic zone.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2017, with the headline 'Ex-head of school operator held over subsidy fraud'. Print Edition | Subscribe