OSAKA – Senior officials in the Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office were aware that a prosecutor arrested Tuesday had tampered with data seized last year in relation to a postal abuse case, sources at the office said Wednesday, hinting at an organizational coverup.
Tsunehiko Maeda, 43, the principal prosecutor in the case against welfare official Atsuko Muraki, divulged that he altered the data, and the information was passed on to the office’s top officials, the sources said. Muraki, 54, was acquitted on Sept. 10.
An investigative team from the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office is poised to look into the possibility the district office was involved in knowingly leaving the falsified data without investigating the prosecutor’s alleged impropriety, they said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku suggested that the prosecutor general should be held more responsible for such scandals than a corporate manager would be, while Liberal Democratic Party Diet affairs chief Ichiro Aisawa said the main opposition party will consider asking the Diet to summon senior prosecutors as unsworn witnesses.
Sometime in February, Maeda told the head of the Osaka prosecutors’ special investigation unit and colleagues in the trial unit that he “happened to falsify” data on a floppy disk seized from the home of Muraki’s subordinate in May last year, the sources said.
The chief of the investigation unit, Hiromichi Otsubo, now deputy chief prosecutor at the Kyoto District Public Prosecutor’s Office, reported his remarks to Osaka’s chief and deputy chief prosecutors of the time, they said.
When Muraki’s trial opened in late January, her defense argued that the date on which prosecutors argued that the date a document key was prepared was different from the date recorded in an investigative report compiled from data on the disk.
The district prosecutors’ office is believed to have withheld what Maeda did because it had already returned the disk to its owner, Tsutomu Kamimura, a Muraki subordinate who is facing a separate trial over the case.
According to the investigative report approved by the court as evidence, the disk, which contained the text of the official document that enabled a bogus organization to abuse the mail discount system for handicapped people, was last updated on June 1, 2004.
However, it was later found to have been altered on June 8, after it was returned from prosecutors.
Maeda admitted to the allegation under questioning by other Osaka prosecutors before he was arrested on Tuesday.