Lawmakers Hear Scandal Testimony
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Lawmakers Hear Scandal Testimony

    A school operator at the center of a political scandal that's rocked Japan's ruling party has given sworn testimony to lawmakers. The rare event was to explain allegations over interference in a state land purchase and possible connections to the prime minister.

    School operator Yasunori Kagoike spent Thursday giving sworn testimony to both houses of Japan's Diet. He was summoned by lawmakers in an effort to clear the air surrounding a scandal that implicates the prime minister and other lawmakers. At the heart of the issue is this statement.

    "She took an envelope out of her bag and told me it was from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe," says Kagoike said.

    Kagoike was referring to the prime minister's wife, Akie. He says she gave him a 9,000-dollar donation on behalf of her husband -- something Shinzo Abe says never happened.

    Kagoike is the head of the educational group Moritomo Gakuen. It teaches a curriculum supportive of Abe and his policies, and lately it's been in the spotlight. The group made headlines when it was revealed that it purchased state owned land in Osaka for a fraction of its estimated value.

    The opposition cried foul and alleged political interference, and the government says the price was appropriate.

    It was also revealed that Akie Abe was the honorary principal for a new school being built on the controversial land. She has since stepped down. What's more, Moritomo Gakuen had planned to name the school after the prime minister.

    The prime minister even staked his job on the fact he had nothing to do with the land sale.

    "If I or my wife were involved, I clearly say, I would step down as Prime Minister and end my career as a politician," Abe said.

    Abe may have thought that comment was enough to put the scandal behind them. But then Kagoike claimed he received a donation from the Abes. That led him to being summoned to the Diet to answer questions about the donation and the land sale.

    "I believe there was political involvement concerning this matter," Kagoike says.

    A recent NHK poll indicates Abe's Cabinet has seen a drop in its support rate. While the ruling party is trying to put this mess behind them, the opposition says the testimony is only the beginning.