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Katsutoshi Matsuo, a former Foreign Ministry logistics chief, was indicted Friday on charges of defrauding the government of 42 million yen in Cabinet Secretariat discretionary funds for diplomatic activities, prosecutors said.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office took the action against Matsuo, 55, who was arrested March 10. He has admitted to the charge, investigators said.

According to the indictment, Matsuo pocketed the 42 million yen by padding expenses such as hotel bills for three trips abroad involving two prime ministers — Ryutaro Hashimoto and Keizo Obuchi — from 1997 through 1999.

As head of the ministry’s defunct Overseas Visit Support Division, Matsuo arranged 46 tours from November 1993 to July 1999 for Prime Ministers Morihiro Hosokawa, Tsutomu Hata, Tomiichi Murayama, Hashimoto and Obuchi.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said at a news conference that the government anticipates an early end to the investigation. He added that the government is preparing to file a damages suit against Matsuo once the extent of the fraud is known.

Foreign Minister Yohei Kono issued a statement saying: “I expect the judiciary will investigate the truth of this case. As for the Foreign Ministry, we are working on preventing a recurrence of such an incident.”

Despite such remarks by government leaders, recent revelations suggest that a Foreign Ministry official who took over from Matsuo as chief VIP logistics officer may also have inherited the practice of padding hotel bills on overseas trips.

Metropolitan Police Department investigators are questioning the official, now attached to the minister’s secretariat at the Foreign Ministry, on suspicion of possible fraud, police sources said earlier this week.

The 51-year-old official allegedly sent padded hotel bills to the Prime Minister’s Office, which uses discretionary funds to cover hotel expenses beyond the level of official stipends.

The sources said the money was paid to the official’s personal bank account — the same procedure Matsuo used.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the official who took over for Matsuo in August 1999 used a personal credit card to settle hotel bills after getting the money from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The official has declined to comment on the case when contacted by Kyodo News.

“I was doing my job the way I took it from my predecessor,” he said. “Beyond that I have no comment.”

Foreign Ministry officials said the ministry has questioned the official and has determined that no public funds have been embezzled.

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