National / Crime & Legal

Former Japan education ministry official charged over alleged corruption

Kyodo

Prosecutors indicted a former senior education ministry official Wednesday on suspicion he was wined and dined by a consulting firm executive in return for providing favors to his company.

Kazuaki Kawabata, 57, former director general for international affairs at the ministry, is the second senior education ministry official to face criminal charges in recent weeks after another official was indicted for corruption last month.

“I deeply apologize for our damage to public trust,” education minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said.

The prosecutors also indicted on the same day Koji Taniguchi, 47, a former executive of the consulting firm, for allegedly bribing Kawabata.

While Kawabata was on loan at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency as an executive board member between August 2015 and March 2017, he was treated to meals and drinks and taxi payments worth ¥1.5 million by Taniguchi on some 20 occasions, his indictment sheet said.

Kawabata is also suspected of helping Taniguchi bring astronaut and doctor Satoshi Furukawa to Tokyo Medical University in November 2016 to speak at a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of its establishment.

Generally, JAXA executive board members and other officials select the events its astronauts can attend as they need to prioritize daily training, according to the agency.

The education ministry has already been rocked by the July indictment of Futoshi Sano, 59, former director general of the ministry’s science and technology bureau, over a corruption scandal involving the medical university.

Sano is accused of helping the university secure a government subsidy in exchange for a place at the institution for his son.

Taniguchi played a role in the case as well by bringing Sano and the chiefs of the university together, according to sources.

Tokyo Medical University also became the subject of international scrutiny after it admitted to manipulating entrance exams for female prospective students to lower the number of women studying at the school.