Aso Defends Request To Pad Cost In Land Deal

Aso defends request to pad cost in land deal

Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso has defended the ministry's local bureau that proposed inflating waste removal costs in a land deal at the center of an alleged favoritism scandal.

Aso spoke to reporters on Tuesday, in connection with the heavily-discounted sale of state-owned land to school operator Moritomo Gakuen.

The discount was offered to cover the cost of removing waste buried in the plot in Osaka Prefecture, which was previously owned by the transport ministry's civil aviation office.

A Finance Ministry official told the Diet on Monday that his ministry's local bureau asked the aviation office to raise the estimated waste removal cost, by expanding the area subject to the disposal work.

Aso affirmed that the request for cost-padding did take place, but he said the process was appropriate.

Aso said he believes local officials just wanted to fix the details properly in advance, to avoid getting complaints from Moritomo later over inadequate disposal work.

Opposition parties have criticized the land deal.

They say Moritomo may have received preferential treatment because Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife once served as honorary principal of the school that was to open on the land in question.