March 23 (UPI) -- The wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may have given $9,000 in illicit donations to a nationalist group – an allegation that is undermining Abe's popularity in the polls.
Akie Abe, 54, is at the center of at least two scandals, one involving the donation, and another related to an under-the-table land sale to the foundation known as Moritomo Gakuen, Bloomberg reported.
Moritomo Gakuen operates Tsukamoto kindergarten, headed by a principal who encouraged racist views and was interrogated for his use of slurs to describe people of Korean or Chinese descent in a newsletter to parents, Kyodo news agency reported.
Speaking before Tokyo's parliament on Thursday, the principal, Yasunori Kagoike, said the $9,000 cash donation was "from Shinzo Abe," and that the Japanese first lady had personally delivered the envelope of money in 2015.
Tokyo's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga denied any ties between Kagoike and Shinzo Abe, and Akie Abe has denied the exchange.
But Kagoike is challenging the government's version of the story.
"Mrs. Abe may say she does not at all remember the event, but I remember it quite clearly as it was a very glorious moment for us," Kagoike told Japan's parliament.
The first lady may also have approved of a land sale in Toyonaka City in Osaka Prefecture at a deeply discounted price of $1.2 million, a transaction that was $7.2 million below market value.
Suga also repudiated this claim on Thursday.
Kagoike is a member of a right-wing group that has pressed the prime minister to regularly visit Japan's Yasukuni Shrine, a memorial that commemorates the war dead, including Class A war criminals.
Shinzo Abe had said he would step down if any connection emerges between him and the land sale.