Business lobby chief calls for thorough probe into cronyism scandal

Name of Japan PM's wife removed from land sale documents - Kyodo

Quotes by Moritomo Gakuen that said Akie Abe recommended the school operator's project move forward and that she gave a speech there were erased.

The changes include the removal of a reference to a visit to the school by Abe's wife and to ties that Abe and Finance Minister Taro Aso had to a conservative lobby group, Nippon Kaigi - both well-known facts.

"What is important is that these things don't happen again", Aso added.

In the documents, references to Akie, whose role in a school project is suspected to have led to the reduced price, were deleted.

A finance ministry official said that 14 items had been altered in the documents after February - when the scandal broke - at the instruction of the ministry's finance division to match testimony in parliament.

Allegations against Ms Abe, for her involvement with Moritomo Gakuen, an operator of ultraconservative schools that was able to purchase government land in Osaka at a fraction of its value, first emerged early previous year, but resurfaced after the revelation that official documents related to the sale had been changed.

LDP parliamentary affairs official Hiroshi Moriyama told reporters on Monday that he had been briefed by finance ministry officials that documents related to the land sale had been altered but did not comment on the content.

"It is an urgent task to find out the objective (of the alterations) and who authorized them, and tell the public what really happened", Sakakibara said. He resigned last Friday to take responsibility for his replies, and another official linked to the scandal reportedly killed himself. But the arrest of any officials over the adjustment of the public documents would worsen Aso's position and make it even harder to stay on. A Sankei newspaper poll over the weekend said 71 percent of respondents said Aso should go. He said Aso should resign and parliament hold hearings on the matter.

Abe is facing re-election as head of his ruling LDP party in September, which would put him on course to be Japan's longest-serving premier.

The response of senior LDP lawmakers such as party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai will be critical to any effort to protect Aso, as well as to containing the fallout for Abe.

Losing Aso would be a big blow to Abe politically, but direct policy implications would probably be limited. Aso has been Abe's deputy since he took office in December 2012, and is seen as a key backer of the Abenomics program, part of which focuses on weakening the yen to boost the nation's exports. Possible Abe successors including former foreign minister Fumio Kishida, as well as Ishiba, have spoken about the need to fix Japan's ballooning debt with fiscal consolidation. However, traders seemed reluctant to continue pushing stocks higher amid a lack of major USA economic data on the day. Investors had trimmed holdings of yen last week on news US President Donald Trump was prepared to meet with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, a potential breakthrough in nuclear tensions in the region.

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