Two-year sentence upheld for corrupt ministry official

The Tokyo High Court on Wednesday upheld a former Foreign Ministry official’s two-year prison sentence for fraud.

In rejecting the defendant’s appeal, the court upheld the May ruling by the Tokyo District Court that Akio Asakawa, 57, defrauded the government of some 400 million yen by padding bills, including hotel expenses, for the 1995 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Osaka and a preparatory gathering held in Tokyo the previous month.

Presiding Judge Shogo Takahashi said Asakawa, a former assistant director at the ministry’s European Affairs Bureau, took advantage of his position to swindle a large sum of money from the state.

“His actions undermined the public’s trust in civil servants,” the judge said.

Asakawa, who pleaded guilty, appealed the lower court ruling and asked for a suspended sentence, arguing that he has since handed over the roughly 30 million yen the ministry demanded in reparation.

However, Judge Takahashi said that even when those circumstances are taken into account, the sentence must stand.

Asakawa padded bills from Hotel New Otani Osaka, where the APEC conference was held, as well as Hotel New Otani Tokyo, where the preparatory meeting was held, the court said. As of March 1996, he had thus bilked the government out of some 422 million yen.