TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday said he had received a salary and been listed as an executive member of a school operator run by his close friend, which had been given preferential treatment to open a new department at a university. Speaking at a parliamentary committee, the Japanese leader said he had received 140,000 yen ($1,260) a year in the form of a salary from Kake Educational Institution, which currently operates Okayama University of Science. It was selected and offered heavy subsidies to open a new veterinary department. The chairman of the institution, Kotaro Kake, is known to be a close friend of the prime minister. "I was in charge of auditing or something else at the institution for a couple of years after I was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1993," Abe was quoted as saying in the House of Councilors Judicial Affairs Committee. Okayama University of Science, in Ehime Prefecture, was handpicked by the government to open a new veterinary medicine school for the first time in 50 years. The prefecture is one of Japan's national strategic special economic zones, which has far more relaxed regulations to boost growth in the area, as part of Abe's overall growth strategy. Kake Educational Institution was selected for the project in a meeting held between the central and local governments in January. The local city assembly then provided the land to the institution to build the new department for free, records showed, and, in addition, they provided 9.6 billion yen as a subsidy for construction costs, the accounts showed. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Abe's top spokesperson, continued to deny that Abe had any influence over the government's decision to back the university project, suggesting that there was nothing wrong with the prime minister serving as an executive member of the institution and receiving a salary. However, Abe still refused to allow Kihei Maekawa, a former vice education minister, to testify over potentially incriminating documents. The four main opposition parties believe Abe may have used his influence on behalf of his school operator friend, but the prime minister claimed on Monday such allegations were inaccurate. The opposition camp has been rallying over the latest scandal involving the prime minister and a school operator. Abe, his wife and other senior ministers were recently embroiled in another as yet unresolved cut-price government land deal with another private school operator in Osaka. Moritomo Gakuen, the operator of a nationalist school in Osaka, said it had received a donation and the backing of Abe to open a new school on a piece of land owned by the government and sold to the operator for just a fraction of its appraisal value. Abe's wife, at one point, was to be the school's honorary principal. Xinhua (China Daily 06/01/2017 page12) custom wristbands
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