Tokyo - A Japanese official at the heart of a cronyism and cover-up scandal that has dented Shinzo Abe's popularity said Tuesday the prime minister's office was not involved in falsifying documents.
In hotly awaited parliamentary testimony broadcast live on national television, Nobuhisa Sagawa said only his office took part in altering key documents relating to a controversial land sale, potentially easing the pressure on the embattled Abe.
"This is an issue only for the finance bureau (of the ministry) ... therefore we never reported outside the finance bureau ... not to mention reporting to the prime minister's office," said Sagawa, 60.
He added that neither Abe nor his cabinet secretary or finance minister had ordered the alterations.
Sagawa's testimony came as fresh polls showed public support for Abe's government plunging by double digits, apparently due to the scandal, amid opposition calls for the prime minister to resign.
However, Sagawa declined to answer detailed questioning about how and when documents were altered, saying he was under criminal investigation.
This sparked furious scenes in the normally restrained Japanese parliament, as opposition lawmakers jeered and dismissed the testimony as a waste of time.
"There is no point in us asking more questions," shouted Japanese Communist Party lawmaker Akira Koike.
Tetsuro Fukuyama, the secretary general of the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party, told reporters: "These were totally hollow answers, and we must say suspicion only increased." .
Political analyst Yoshinobu Yamamoto stressed that Abe was not out of the woods yet.
"My gut feeling is that the problem won't go away with this. I expect further developments ahead .... The public will not think this is the end of this problem," Yamamoto told AFP.
"His government is in a dire situation but it is not yet bad enough to push him to resign," he added.