Yasunori Kagoike (L), president of Moritomo Gakuen school, answers questions during a session of the House of Councillors Budget Committee in Tokyo, March 23, 2017. Yasunori Kagoike, head of a nationalist school operator involved in a land deal scandal in Japan, testified under oath on Thursday that he received 1 million yen (8,900 U.S. dollars) from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife Akie. (Xinhua/Ma Ping)
TOKYO, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Yasunori Kagoike, head of a nationalist school operator involved in a land deal scandal in Japan, testified under oath on Thursday that he received 1 million yen (8,900 U.S. dollars) from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife Akie.
Kagoike, president of Moritomo Gakuen school, was summoned to give testimony in both chambers of parliament on Thursday.
He reiterated his statement that Abe's wife Akie Abe gave him a donation in 2015 when she was at a kindergarten run by Kagoike to give a speech there.
Abe has consistently denied the claims with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga saying that the prime minister's office has clarified the fact that no such donations were made on the prime minister's or his wife's behalf to the scandal-hit operator.
Kagoike, however, under oath, told the House of Councillors Budget Committee that he received an envelop containing 1 million yen from Akie Abe and was told by the prime minister's wife that it was from the prime minister himself.
He added that there was no remaining evidence of the envelope used for the alleged transition.
Senior Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) members grilling Kagoike in the hearing Thursday strongly implied he was providing false testimony under oath in parliament.
He had previously been accused of fraud and of falsifying evidence, in ongoing investigations.
There has been an escalating furor surrounding Moritomo Gakuen for its purchasing of a cut-price plot of land from the government, with the land being hugely discounted and earmarked to be used to build a new elementary school.
On this point Kagoike said that he believed that there were likely politicians involved in the plot of land being reduced in price so heavily and said that he himself had been surprised by 800 million yen being knocked off the land's original appraisal price.
Kagoike said that further questions regarding this matter should be referred to the local bureau of the Finance Ministry covering the Osaka region.
Abe has previously said that if he or his wife is found to have been involved in giving the operator a donation to help build a new elementary school, or in any other way connected to the land deal, then he will step down as prime minister and a lawmaker.
Funds for the would-be school were allegedly raised using Abe's name and his wife, Akie.
Akie was supposed to serve as honorary principal of the would-be school.
Akie has since stepped down as the scandal widened and video of the school's nationalist agenda began to be beamed across social media platforms and regular broadcasting sites, drawing harsh local and international condemnation.
But Kagoike also claimed that he had been in touch with Akie for advice for building the school, but said that recently he had received an email from her that he believed was an attempt to make sure he kept quiet on issues pertaining to the unfolding scandal.
Akie is known, however, to have given several speeches at Moritomo Gakuen-run schools.
Kagoike also claimed in parliament Thursday that as the scandal was heating up last week, Nobuhisa Sagawa, current director general of the Finance Ministry's Financial Bureau, indirectly told Kagoike to "lay low."
Sagawa has already denied any involvement in the land deal.
Meanwhile, a controversial kindergarten also run by Moritomo Gakuen found itself in the headlines recently for its imperialistic-style of edification.
The school was slammed for disseminating hate speech about Korean and Chinese residents of Japan, as well as for instances, currently under investigation, regarding cases of child abuse.
In the case in which Kagoike's testimony runs contrary to Akie's, she may be called to give her own count of events in a related press conference, or in a written account.
As well as the alleged donation, Kagoike was also pressed in parliament over why local authorities gave him an easier-than-usual time in signing off on the school to be opened.
He was also grilled over multiple and possibly erroneous construction cost estimates filed to the prefecture, to boost perceptions that Moritomo Gakuen was more financially secure than was the case.
Kagoike in parliament opted not to answer questions as to why the estimate of construction costs in a contract submitted to the prefecture were completely different from contracts given to two other bodies.
He refused to answer saying that a criminal complaint may be made against Moritomo Gakuen for such matters.
Japan's Defense Minister Tomomi Inada is also known to have links to Kagoike. She has come under fire in parliament with calls for her to step down for lying about her ties to the operator.
She initially denied having represented Moritomo Gakuen or giving it legal advise in her days as a lawyer before she became a politician.
She subsequently retracted her denial in parliament and while back-peddling apologized and said she had in fact given the operator legal counsel and represented it in a trial.
She told parliament by way of an excuse that her memory had failed her, an excuse which was deemed unacceptable by the opposition bloc, who suggested she was unfit to carry out her ministerial duties as the nation's defense minister and should step down.
Inada's husband and father have also been linked to Kagoike.
Kagoike's testimony on Thursday marked the first time in five years that a sworn witness has been summoned to give testimony in parliament.
Kagoike could be charged with perjury if he gives false testimony in parliament.