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A former Finance Ministry bank inspector was given a suspended prison term Thursday for receiving bribes worth more than 8 million yen from four major banks in exchange for providing tips on the ministry’s bank inspection schedules.

Presiding Judge Manabu Yamazaki of the Tokyo District Court sentenced Koichi Miyagawa, former chief of the ministry’s Financial Inspector’s Office, to 2 1/2 years in prison, suspended for three years.

The court also ordered the 54-year-old former official to pay an 8.11 million yen fine, equal to the amount of bribes he accepted between March 1993 and June 1997. Prosecutors had demanded a three-year sentence and an order to repay the 8.11 million yen.

In handing down the ruling, Yamazaki harshly criticized Miyagawa, saying he “seriously damaged public confidence in the government’s financial administration,” noting its “social repercussions are extremely serious.”

According to the court, Miyagawa gave officials from Asahi, Dai-Ichi Kangyo, Sanwa and Sumitomo banks the ministry’s inspection schedules and the names of branches to be inspected in exchange for favors worth 8.11 million yen in the form of lavish dinners, golf outings and other entertainment.

During the trial, Miyagawa partially denied guilt. He claimed he did not know he was getting a discount of about 4.4 million yen when he purchased a condominium in 1996 through a subsidiary of Asahi Bank. He also argued that he did not disclose to Sanwa Bank any information that would benefit the bank.

But the judge dismissed his claims, saying the defendant’s testimony on the condominium deal is not credible.

The court also said that, even if he might not have been in a position to know the dates of the ministry’s inspection of Sanwa, he was aware of Sanwa’s reason for providing him with the favors and thus his act amounted to bribery.

His lawyer had argued that, at the time of the act, it was customary for ministry officials to be wined and dined by banks and that it is cruel and unfair to place blame on him for such a long-running practice.

The court rejected the defense’s claims. “It is needless to say the Finance Ministry is heavily responsible,” the court ruling said. But, “the fact that such a practice existed cannot be an argument for leniency, and as head of the financial inspector’s office, the defendant should have terminated the practice.”

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