The names of Abe, his wife and the finance minister were removed from a document linked to an alleged land-sale scandal. The cover-up could dent Abe's support.
Japan's Finance Ministry admitted Monday to doctoring documents related to a state land sale that has sparked allegations of cronyism against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The scandal first emerged last year following the sale of state land in Osaka for a fraction of the appraised price to a right-wing school operator with ties to first lady Akie.
Finance Minister Taro Aso admitted "some staff members" at the ministry made 14 changes to official documents, but that he did not believe it was done to protect Abe.
Opposition lawmakers released the original and changed documents on Monday, showing that Abe's name, that of his wife and Aso were removed.
"Changing official documents is very grave and extremely regrettable and I deeply apologize," Aso said at a press conference. "What is important is that these things don't happen again. We are fully cooperating with the investigation."
Tax agency head resigns
Aso has refused to resign over the scandal, which last Friday saw the head of the tax agency Nobuhisa Sagawa step down.
Sagawa was in charge of the finance ministry department responsible for the land sale before being promoted to head the tax agency. A finance ministry official linked to the scandal was also found dead last week in an apparent suicide.
Aso said the documents were altered to make them conform with Sagawa's testimony in parliament.
Opposition lawmakers accuse private school operator Yasunori Kagoike of using his ties to Abe and his wife Akie to secure the cut-rate price of the property.
Akie was named honorary principal of the school that was planned to be built on the plot. She later stepped down when the scandal emerged.
The document doctoring scandal may damage Abe, who has denied any role in the land sale but said he would resign if linked to it.
A poll released Monday showed Abe's support had dropped to 48 percent, down six points from last month.
Eight out of 10 respondents said the government was not properly responding to the allegations.
Abe is seeking re-election as head of the Liberal Democratic Party in September.
cw/ng (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)