Japanese duo under fire over suspected scandal

TOKYO – Japan’s finance ministry on Monday acknowledged that documents in a suspected cronyism scandal had been doctored, said a senior ruling party official, as pressure mounts on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ally Finance Minister Taro Aso over the case.

Mr Abe, now in his sixth year in office, had tried to put behind him questions over the sale of state-owned land at a huge discount to a school operator with ties to his wife, Akie, behind him.

His ratings had rebounded from a slump last year, but doubts have revived with a series of fresh revelations.

Mr Abe has repeatedly denied he or his wife did favours for school operator Moritomo Gakuen, which bought the land, and has said he would resign if evidence were found that they had.

The issue last year sharply eroded Mr Abe’s popularity.

Suspicions of a cover-up could slash Mr Abe’s ratings and dash his hopes of a third term as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Victory in the LDP September leadership vote would put him on track to become Japan’s longest-serving premier.

The doubts have also sparked calls for Mr Aso to resign.