Prosecutors raided the Defense Agency on Monday on suspicion that the agency destroyed documents relevant to a procurement billing scandal in an attempted coverup.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office suspects that a number of documents were systematically destroyed under the instruction of senior officials at the agency’s Central Procurement Office before the first raid Sept. 3, investigative sources said.

Prosecutors have also begun questioning two Central Procurement Office officials in connection with the case, the sources said. This case is exceptional in that a government body is being suspected of destroying evidence.

In the Sept. 3 raid, prosecutors failed to locate documents they said are supposed to be kept in the building. Afterward, four people were arrested, including Kenichi Ueno, 59, a former deputy head of the agency’s procurement headquarters, on suspicion of breach of trust, the sources said.

Investigators have been questioning procurement officials since Saturday on suspicion they may have plotted to systematically destroy the documents, they said.

Destruction of evidence carries fines of up to 200,000 yen or a maximum two-year prison term. The missing documents allegedly detailed overcharging and refunding by Toyo Communication Equipment Co., which is affiliated with electronics giant NEC Corp., they said.

But agency officials denied the allegation, saying it would have been impossible for them to scrap relevant documents when they were asked to voluntarily submit them prior to the prosecution investigation.

They added that they usually scrap documents after the five-year period for preserving them has passed.

Investigation sources allege that a number of relevant documents, including those scheduled to be kept until 2000, were destroyed after the procurement scandal became public and before prosecutors raided the agency Sept. 3.

The scandal has led to the arrests of nine people, including former top procurement officer Masuo Morodomi and former deputy procurement chief Kenichi Ueno, as well as officials at Toyo Communication and NEC.

The procurement office calculated the amount of money the agency ordered four defense equipment suppliers, including Toyo Communication, to repay.

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