PM Abe's wife did not donate to scandal-hit school operator: Suga

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The Japanese government's top spokesman denied Friday that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife made a donation to an Osaka Prefecture school operator at the center of a land deal scandal.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the prime minister's office has reviewed its files to check if Akie Abe had made any donations in an individual capacity to Moritomo Gakuen, under scrutiny for its cut-price purchase of a piece of public land for an elementary school.

Lawmakers who spoke on Thursday with Moritomo Gakuen head Yasunori Kagoike quoted him as claiming that the prime minister had donated 1 million yen (around $8,800) toward building the school.

According to Suga, Abe has already verified that he did not make any donation himself or through a third party such as his wife.

"We don't know the basis on which (Kagoike) has made these remarks, and it will be up to the prime minister to decide (how to respond)," Suga said Friday.

The prime minister has spent several weeks fiercely denying that either he or his wife was connected to Moritomo Gakuen's purchase in June last year of the state-owned plot in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, for 134 million yen ($1.17 million) -- only around 14 percent of its appraised value.

But opposition parties have seized on Akie Abe's documented connections to the school operator. She was named as the elementary school's honorary principal but stepped away after questions were raised about the controversial land deal.

She has also given speeches at a kindergarten run by the school operator, and Kagoike claims she handed him the donation on the prime minister's behalf on such an occasion on Sept. 5, 2015.

Moritomo Gakuen has dropped its application to prefectural authorities to open the elementary school, still under construction on the site, after inconsistencies were found in its contracts.

==Kyodo

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