Japanese court dismisses damages suit over Abe's tampering of documents

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Japanese court dismisses damages suit over Abe's tampering of documents

OSAKA Kyodo An Osaka court dismissed a woman's damages suit on Friday, claiming her husband, a former Finance Ministry bureaucrat, killed himself after a former ministry official's 2017 order to alter documents related to favoritism allegations against then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Nobuhisa Sagawa, the chief of the ministry's Financial Bureau, played a crucial role in falsifying the documents, but denied he was personally liable, according to the Osaka District Court.

The court cited a law stating that the state is liable for damages if a civil servant inflicts damage due to illegal actions.

In March 2020, following Toshio Akagi's death in March 2018, his wife, Masako Akagi, sought 16.5 million yen $119,000 in damages from Sagawa. The ministry had admitted in 2018 that Sagawa ordered officials to falsify and delete parts of state-owned land transaction documents related to Abe's wife, Akie.

In an earlier case in which the state was sued over the former ministry official's death, the government agreed in December last year to pay damages after disclosing files about the ministry's repeated orders to tamper with documents and subsequent resistance by Akagi.

The plaintiff claimed that his husband, who was working at Kinki Local Finance Bureau, died by suicide at age 54 after suffering severe mental distress from Sagawa, ordered his subordinates from February to March 2017 to alter documents related to a heavily discounted sale of state-owned land in Osaka Prefecture to a private school operator with ties to Akie Abe.

Akagi refused to follow Sagawa's order, but was forced to work overtime to falsify the documents and eventually began suffering from depression, according to the claim.

When the tampering occurred, Abe was criticized by opposition parties over allegations that the ministry gave the discount to school operator Moritomo Gakuen in consideration of his wife's role as an honorary principal of an elementary school that was expected to open at the site.

In July 2017, Sagawa became commissioner of the National Tax Agency, but stepped down in March 2018 to take responsibility for the scandal.