No new school for scandal-hit operator

Operator Moritomo Gakuen raised suspicions after buying land to build a school at a fraction of its appraisal value.
Operator Moritomo Gakuen raised suspicions after buying land to build a school at a fraction of its appraisal value.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • The operator of a nationalist school at the centre of a government-linked land scandal has withdrawn its application for approval to open a new elementary school in Japan's Osaka prefecture, local media reported yesterday.

According to local officials, the operator has filed a request to withdraw its application to open the new elementary school and said that its would-be head, Mr Yasunori Kagoike, will step down.

Moritomo Gakuen, which operates the Tsukamoto kindergarten, came under the spotlight most recently for acquiring a piece of state-owned land at a fraction of its appraisal value.

Moritomo Gakuen bought the 8,770 sq m plot of state-owned land in Toyonaka, Osaka prefecture, last June for 134 million yen (S$1.6 million), which was equivalent to just 14 per cent of its appraisal value.

The operator, according to local reports, submitted three different cost estimates to the government for building the school and local media also said that Mr Kagoike's resume contains false information.

Mr Kagoike purportedly planned to build a new elementary school on the state-owned land, with the school to be named after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Both the Prime Minister and his wife have markedly distanced themselves from the school and its operator, and Finance Minister Taro Aso said yesterday that the government will likely buy back the land because it is stipulated in the contract.

Opposition parties had brought the issue to light in Parliament, with the controversial land deal coming on the heels of revelations that Tsukamoto kindergarten had been involved in hate speech incidents targeting Koreans and Chinese.

XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2017, with the headline 'No new school for scandal-hit operator'. Print Edition | Subscribe