OSAKA – Two former senior prosecutors were handed suspended 18-month prison sentences Friday for covering up evidence-tampering by a subordinate who was trying to implicate a senior health ministry bureaucrat in a postal discount system abuse scam.
The wrongfully charged bureaucrat was acquitted.
Convicted Friday by the Osaka District Court were Hiromichi Otsubo, 58, former head of the elite investigative team at the Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office, and his former deputy, Motoaki Saga, 51. Their sentences were suspended for three years.
Their subordinate, Tsunehiko Maeda, 44, who was also on the investigative team, was last April handed an 18-month prison term for altering data on a floppy disk confiscated during the investigation into the postal case. He had pleaded guilty.
Presiding Judge Hiromichi Iwakura said Saga had received a report from Maeda that he had tampered with data on a floppy disk that was seized in the course of the investigation into the abuse of the postal discount system and that he filed the report with his boss, Otsubo.
The two defendants covered up Maeda’s actions by falsely portraying them as a mistake, and not as data-tampering, the judge said.
The court’s three-judge panel also found that Otsubo and Saga filed a false report on Maeda’s actions with the then head and deputy head of the Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Otsubo and Saga were technically charged with harboring a criminal under the Penal Code.
The Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office arrested and indicted Otsubo and Saga in October 2010 on suspicion of covering up Maeda’s evidence-tampering in a scandal that shook the credibility of the prosecutorial system.
Both Otsubo and Saga were fired after being indicted. They were released on bail in January 2011.
During their trial, prosecutors argued that Otsubo and Saga covered up Maeda’s wrongdoing while knowing he intentionally rewrote data on the disk.
Otsubo and Saga insisted they had received a report from Maeda that he rewrote data on the disk by mistake.
Otsubo and Saga pleaded not guilty, while prosecutors had sought 18-month prison terms without suspension.