June 20 (UPI) -- A scandal involving the Japanese prime minister and a veterinary school operated by his close friend is leading to higher disapproval ratings for Shinzo Abe, the latest polls show.
The Mainichi Shimbun reported Tuesday 44 percent of Japanese surveyed said they do not support the prime minister, while 36 percent of the respondents said they approve of his performance.
Kake Gakuen, a school operator that runs the Okayama University of Science, and owned by Kotaro Kake, a close friend of Abe, has been linked to the zero-cost acquisition of city-owned property.
The prime minister's office may have been involved, leaked documents show.
Kake's school was planning to open a veterinary department in Imabari in western Japan. A recently disclosed document claimed Abe was supporting the school "at the highest level," although the department had not received government approval to build in 52 years, The Japan Times reported Tuesday.
More evidence of collusion has emerged, Tokyo's education ministry told reporters.
Education Minister Hirokazu Matsuno said Tuesday a file "identical to the document in an [online] shared folder," shows a private conversation between Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda and Yutaka Tokiwa, head of the higher education bureau.
The document supports evidence Hagiuda, a close Abe aide, knew the prime minister had "chosen" Kake Gakuen for a "special deregulation project" as early as October, and before an official ministry panel review, according to the report.
The "Prime Minister's Office has said it is determined to carry out [the Kake Gakuen project] at any cost," the document quotes Hagiuda as saying.
Hagiuda denied making the statement on Tuesday.
On Monday, Abe held a press conference to publicly apologize for "causing distrust" of the government. Immediately after the briefing, Japanese prosecutors searched the residence of Yasunori Kagoike, the principal who encouraged racist views at Tsukamoto kindergarten, as well as the offices of Moritomo Gakuen, South Korean newspaper Segye Ilbo reported.
Moritomo Gakuen was linked to the prime minister's wife in March, when local reports showed Akie Abe was involved in illicit donations and an under-the-table land sale to the school operator.
A separate survey from right-wing newspaper Sankei Shimbun showed 84.8 percent of respondents said they did not find the government's explanations for recent scandals to be satisfactory.