An ex-Maritime Self-Defense Force officer pleaded guilty Monday to passing two confidential documents to a Russian military attache in June and apologized for endangering the people of Japan.
Shigehiro Hagisaki, 38, who was dismissed from the MSDF upon his Sept. 7 arrest, was a lieutenant commander and researcher at the Defense Agency’s National Institute for Defense Studies.
Prosecutors in his first trial hearing Monday alleged that he received 580,000 yen in cash from the attache incrementally over several occasions and that he had hoped to obtain Russian defense information in return for the information he passed on.
Hagisaki told the Tokyo District Court that he handed the MSDF documents to Viktor Bogatenkov, 44, in violation of the SDF Law. Bogatenkov, who reportedly is an agent of the Russian intelligence agency GRU, was with Hagisaki when he was arrested but refused to submit to questioning and returned to Moscow two days later.
Standing before the court, Hagisaki expressed his “remorse and apology to the Japanese people for endangering their lives.”
“Considering the importance of (national defense) information today, my conduct exposed the Japanese people to danger,” he said. “I fully apologize to the people of Japan and will devote my life to compensating them.”
The documents Hagisaki allegedly handed over to Bogatenkov are said to be of the lowest security level among the Defense Agency’s classified materials.
In their opening statement, prosecutors said Hagisaki gave photocopies of two third-level classified MSDF documents to Bogatenkov on Jun. 30.
One of the documents is a textbook on combat strategy for young MSDF officers and the other is a reference book on the future of the Self-Defense Forces’ communications system, they said. The SDF Law prohibits SDF members from divulging classified information to outsiders.
In exchange for handing over the information, Hagisaki was hoping to obtain information on the Russian Navy for his graduate studies, the prosecutors alleged, adding that he was paid 580,000 yen spread out over several occasions from the attache.
Bogatenkov, a naval attache at the Russian Embassy in Tokyo, avoided arrest because of his diplomatic immunity. After Hagisaki’s arrest, the embassy rejected the Japanese police request to interrogate Bogatenkov, and he left Japan on Sept. 9.
Hagisaki and Bogatenkov first met in January 1999 at an international defense symposium and got together on several occasion since then until Hagisaki’s arrest, prosecutors said.
Hagisaki, a graduate of the National Defense Academy, served aboard MSDF destroyers and support craft. Fluent in Russian, he had also worked in the MSDF’s documentation division, which deals with information on other nations’ defense strategies.
To complete his master’s thesis at the academy, he was trying to acquire Russian Navy defense information from Bogatenkov in exchange for the MSDF documents, the prosecutors said.
Hagisaki admitted he also wanted to gain fame as a Russian naval analyst.
He denied that money was his initial motive for cooperating with Bogatenkov but admitted that he needed the cash to donate to a religious organization in exchange for spiritual guidance after his his son was stricken with leukemia. The boy died in March at age 9.