Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe may face investigation over claims that he pushed officials to approve a university programme linked to his friend.
Opposition leaders have asked for an independent investigation after papers were published that reportedly show that Mr Abe’s advisers put undue pressure on the education ministry last year to quickly approve the establishment of the veterinary medicine department of Okayama University of Science, the German newspaper Die Welt said.
Officials wanted to see the university open the department in April 2018, said Kihei Maekawa, a former vice-minister at the education ministry, in comments to the Tokyo Shimbun, the paper said.
It was the “intent of the prime minister” to open the new veterinary science department and the timing was “what the highest level of the prime minister's office has said,” according to leaked documents that Mr Maekawa has allegedly verified.
The university is operated by the Kake Educational Institution, whose chairman is Kotaro Kake, a close friend of Mr Abe. Since the prime minister first took office in 2012, he and Kake have had dinner on at least nine occasions and played golf together four times, Die Welt said.
Mr Abe and other top officials have repeatedly questioned the authenticity of the documents, which supposedly show that his office pressed government officials to approve the school’s application. But opposition MPs want Mr Maekawa to testify in parliament about their veracity.
The plan for the new department had been repeatedly rejected in the past due to a lack of demand, critics say. They say the project only began to move forward after Mr Abe’s government eased requirements for veterinary schools.
Announcing a probe into the released papers, education minister Hirokazu Matsuno said he “accept[s] the people's voice sincerely and will conduct an additional investigation” into the authenticity of the documents.