TOKYO -- Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said Monday that he will voluntarily return 12 months of his salary to acknowledge responsibility for doctored documents related to the sale of state-owned land to school operator Moritomo Gakuen.
Although he apologized for the falsification and destruction of the documents, Aso said he has "no intention of stepping down" as finance minister. Moritomo Gakuen is a nationalist school with ties to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife, Akie.
The ministry announced on the same day the results of its investigation and punishments for about 20 officials involved.
The ministry acknowledged that Nobuhisa Sagawa, the former head of the National Tax Agency, had, in effect, ordered his subordinates to falsify the documents while he was general director of the ministry’s Financial Bureau. The report concluded that Sagawa “determined the direction” and played a leading role in the falsification and destruction of the documents.
Sagawa will receive a reprimand equivalent to a suspension from duty, the second most severe disciplinary action that can be taken against a government official.
Minoru Nakamura, head of the bureau’s Planning and Administration Division, who played a central role in the scandal, will also be suspended.
The ministry is considering appointing new senior personnel to put the incident behind it. It considers the release of the findings and the announcement of punishments a significant step toward resolving the scandal, but Aso still faces rising criticism over his handling of the matter.
The ministry hopes the moves will show its intention to clean up its act by dealing severely with officials linked to the falsification.