Embassy staffer nailed for stealing

by Masami Ito

The Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday that a local Japanese employee at the embassy in Colombia embezzled about ¥1.55 million from commission fees for issuing and renewing passports.

The case was brought to the ministry’s attention after the Board of Audit pointed out in September that the number of passports issued and the commission revenue didn’t match.

After an internal investigation, the ministry found that a 52-year-old Japanese employee at the embassy in Bogota had embezzled about 33.79 million Colombian pesos, or about ¥1.55 million, from passport commissions between January 2007 and May of last year.

The man had returned ¥920,000 of the total by the time the case came to light.

The remaining ¥662,000, including interest, was also returned after the employee admitted to the allegations.

The man was fired Jan. 5 and the ministry is set to punish the ambassador and others for lack of supervision. It is also considering filing a criminal complaint.

The employee, a Japanese citizen but hired locally, had worked at the embassy since 1987, according to the ministry.

He started embezzling the money after suffering financial problems around 2007, including tuition for his children and a house loan, a Foreign Ministry official said.