Defense Agency chief Fukushiro Nukaga admitted Thursday that some agency officials removed documents related to a scandal involving its Central Procurement Office before prosecutors raided the agency earlier this month.
“I received a report that some staff at the procurement office took relevant documents home or changed the place where they are kept” before prosecutors raided the office Sept. 3, Nukaga told a House of Councilors panel.
Other senior agency officials also admitted the documents in question were moved before the raid, but said it was still unclear why.
Sources said Tuesday that staff at the Central Procurement Office walked out with several cardboard boxes of documents around midnight Aug. 31 and told colleagues they were going to submit them as evidence to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office, which the sources said has made no such request.
Meanwhile, Masayuki Fujishima, the director general of the agency’s secretariat who was questioned by prosecutors Tuesday over his involvement in the suspected coverup, reiterated in a press conference that he never ordered agency officials to remove or destroy relevant documents. He added he has no intention to resign from his post.
On Monday, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office raided the agency’s headquarters in Tokyo on suspicion that a number of documents were destroyed under the instruction of senior officials before the first raid on the agency Sept. 3.
Prosecutors first raided the agency to investigate allegations that Toyo Communication Equipment Co., a defense contractor who overcharged the government for equipment, was given a break on the repayment in return for agreeing to employ retiring Defense Agency officials.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Masahiro Akiyama, administrative vice minister of the agency, admitted that some documents were stuffed into cardboard boxes and taken from the procurement office to the agency’s Maritime Staff Office building prior to the Sept. 3 raid.
The documents were confiscated by the prosecutors in the second raid on the agency Monday, he said.
Government sources say Akiyama will be forced to resign to take responsibility for the scandal as soon as prosecutors wrap up their investigation. “The top priority now is to clarify the facts. If the relevant documents have actually been systematically incinerated, my responsibility will be grave,” Akiyama said, hinting he was ready to resign.
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