Ex-welfare exec held over embezzlement

One-time accounting official at support group for mentally disabled people took ¥10 million, Osaka prosecutors say

OSAKA (Kyodo) Prosecutors on Thursday arrested a former senior official of a government-endorsed association for mentally disabled people for allegedly embezzling ¥10 million.

Sadao Sotome, 58, a former deputy secretary general of Zenkoku Seishin Shogaisha Fukki Shisetsu Kyokai, is suspected of withdrawing the money from the group’s bank account over several occasions and depositing it into his own account between 2005 and 2008, investigative sources said.

Tens of millions of yen in unspecified expenditures have been detected at the organization, where Sotome was in charge of accounting. It is believed he used the money for personal activities, including gambling.

Sotome and several senior officials told interviewers that some of the unexplained money was used for political donations, prompting a special investigation team from the Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office to clarify the money flow, the sources said.

While admitting to withdrawing the association’s money, Sotome denied in an interview that he used it privately.

The association was founded in 1990 with around 1,000 member groups operating facilities for the disabled and receives subsidies from the central government. It was approved by the old Health and Welfare Ministry in 1994 as a social welfare corporation that assists mentally disabled people.

It took over the operations of a facility housing a hotel with mentally disabled staff and a vocational training center in Tochigi Prefecture from another foundation in 2007, but closed the hotel and its main office in Tokyo last March due to financial difficulties.

An in-house probe by the association has found that some of the unspecified money was spent on tickets for fundraising parties for a former Liberal Democratic Party member of the Lower House and to buy coupons for goods for a former senior official at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.