The Defense Agency on Wednesday officially denied that it attempted to cover up the ongoing procurement overcharging scandal, while admitting some related evidence had been destroyed shortly before the Sept. 3 raid on the agency.In an interim in-house investigation report released by Defense Agency chief Fukushiro Nukaga, the agency said its officials had made no systematic orders to their subordinates to move, dispose of or burn documents related to the scandal.But it admitted that more than 10 officials had moved related documents out of their offices to such places as their homes or other agency buildings between August and early September — at the same time rumors of an expected raid by prosecutors spread in the agency.Some of these documents were later discarded, the report says. The agency insisted, however, that these actions were taken because the officials had personal reasons for doing so, not at the request of their superiors.Also in Wednesday’s report, the agency vows to “drastically review” its procurement office, where much of the action surrounding the current scandal took place, and said it would even consider dissolving it.But the report does not touch on actions already taken against officials involved in the scandal, or whether any additional punishment was planned.The interim report was compiled from remarks made by some 200 agency officials whom the in-house investigation team, led by administrative vice minister Akiyama Masahiro, questioned on a voluntary basis.Nukaga said the agency will leave the judgment on whether these acts should be considered coverup attempts in the hands of prosecutors at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office, who are currently investigating the scandal.He admitted that some of the officials’ acts could be interpreted as “inappropriate,” and therefore cannot avoid public criticism.Although the report does not provide the names of the officials who moved the documents, agency officials later confirmed that Hiroshi Ishizuki, former deputy head of the agency’s Central Procurement Office, had an agency staffer move part of the relevant documents to the staffer’s home on the night of Aug. 31.The agency maintained that Ishizuki’s instructions were not intended to systematically cover up the incident, citing the fact that the documents moved were Ishizuki’s personally controlled files.On the same night, the report says, Ishizuki had agency staffers make a phone call to senior procurement office officials and told them to come to the office at 8 a.m. the next day.At the morning meeting, Ishizuki, a former elite officer at the National Police Agency, gave the procurement officials tips on how to cope with a pending raid by investigators, it said.Most of the Defense Agency buildings were in a state of confusion late Aug. 31 due to North Korea’s sudden rocket launch over Japan earlier in the day.Meanwhile, the report also admits that Masayuki Fujishima, former director of the agency’s Secretariat, and Yoshihito Tanaka, former procurement office deputy head, took copies of the relevant evidence to their homes shortly before the raid. Fujishima later discarded the documents at his home, agency officials said.The agency’s investigative team considers such acts by Fujishima and Tanaka to have been carried out partly due to their desire to avoid confiscation of the documents, the report says.The agency stripped Ishizuki, Fujishima and Tanaka of their posts Sept. 29.Former and current officials of the procurement office, electronics giant NEC Corp. and two of its subsidiaries — Toyo Communication Equipment Co. and Nico Electronics Co. — are accused of breach of trust for conspiring to reduce billions of yen in refunds owed the agency by the two subsidiaries for overcharging in equipment purchases.Prosecutors have arrested more then 10 suspects to date, including two former senior agency officials — Masuo Morodomi, 59, a former head of the procurement office, and Kenichi Ueno, 59, a former deputy head of the office.Morodomi and Ueno are suspected of having encouraged the reductions by Nico and Toyo while serving in their posts in exchange for promises by the firms to hire agency officials after they retired, among other favors.Prosecutors allege the suspects arranged to reduce a 1.76 billion yen refund by Nico to 297 million yen, resulting in a 1.46 billion yen loss to the agency.The refund by Toyo was allegedly cut from 2.99 billion yen to 874 million yen for a 2.12 billion yen loss.
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