A former school operator in western Japan has slammed the investigation into his alleged fraud, and also criticized Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the start of his trial.
The trial of former Moritomo Gakuen president Yasunori Kagoike and his wife Junko began for the first time at the Osaka District Court on Wednesday. They were indicted on charges of defrauding the national government, Osaka Prefecture and Osaka City out of about 1.5 million dollars in subsidies related to the construction of an elementary school and the operation of its kindergarten.
Kagoike spoke for about ten minute at the outset of the trial. He said the government arrested him and his wife in a politically-motivated investigation and detained them for 300 days to keep them silent.
Kagoike told the court that these moves were just aimed at diverting public attention away from a serious scandal involving the prime minister's office and the Finance Ministry which had the office's intent in mind.
He also argued that the elementary school was being built with the support of the prime minister's wife Akie, but Abe turned to protecting himself when the land discount issue surfaced.
Moritomo Gakuen made headlines in 2017 after it was found to have purchased state-owned land at a price far below market value for its school building.
Kagoike admitted to making partially wrong applications to get prefectural and municipal subsidies. But he pleaded not guilty to charges of defrauding the national government, saying he had no such intention.
Kagoike's wife pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The defense lawyer asked the court for a fair trial, suggesting that the Kagoikes might have been pinned down as malicious fraudsters in a move that tried to set the shady land deal as far apart as possible from the core of the administration.
The prosecution said the couple instructed the architect firm to pad the school's construction cost to secure subsidies. They added the couple submitted false documents to get as much subsidies as possible from Osaka Prefecture and City.