Police on Wednesday served Katsutoshi Matsuo, a former Foreign Ministry logistics chief, with a new arrest warrant on suspicion of defrauding the government out of roughly 119 million yen.

Matsuo, indicted Friday on charges of defrauding the government out of 42 million yen, is suspected of pocketing the additional 119 million yen by padding accommodation expenses for at least three overseas trips by the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, police sources said.

The three trips include Obuchi’s attendance of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Malaysia in November 1998, a visit to Russia later that month and his tour of France, Germany and Italy in January 1999, the sources said.

Matsuo, 55, stands accused of swindling 42 million yen from the Cabinet Secretariat’s discretionary funds through three trips abroad involving two former prime ministers — Ryutaro Hashimoto and Obuchi — from 1997 through 1999. The amount Matsuo pocketed is believed to total about 160 million yen, including the fresh charge.

The sources said Matsuo has admitted the first charge and to diverting money to buy racehorses. He reportedly told police he wants to atone for his crime.

While Matsuo was logistics chief from 1993 to 1999, he received about 965 million yen from the discretionary funds through a total of 46 overseas trips by prime ministers.

Police believe Matsuo diverted more than 600 million yen mainly to purchase racehorses, golf club memberships and a luxurious condominium in Tokyo.

Call to cut entourage

Diplomacy should be simplified, such as by reducing the size of the prime minister’s entourage during official overseas trips, a former vice foreign minister has told a Foreign Ministry panel.

The group of outside experts was formed in the wake of an embezzlement scandal involving a fired senior bureaucrat.

Kensuke Yanagiya, who retired in 1987 and is currently an adviser to the ministry, told panel members Tuesday that prime ministers’ entourages currently have as many as 200 people, adding that there are “no other countries that have such large entourages,” according to Akira Saito, the panel chairman.

Yanagiya, 76, who held the post of ambassador to Australia from October 1982 to January 1985, also criticized the situation in which staff at Japan’s overseas diplomatic offices are obliged to spend much time providing hospitality to visiting officials such as Diet members, Saito said.

During such visits, the local Japanese embassies are basically closed for business while the staff help the visitors from home get around and do their shopping, spending considerable time packing the goods they have purchased, Yanagiya was quoted as saying.

The panel members will use Yanagiya’s comments as a reference in drawing up recommendations on reforming the ministry’s administration in order to prevent further wrongdoing, Saito, president of the daily Mainichi Shimbun, told reporters.

The panel also decided Tuesday to prepare its recommendations without the help of ministry officials, with the members agreeing to exclude all ministry officials from their remaining three meetings so they can freely devise a document to be submitted to the ministry.

Senior Vice Foreign Minister Seishiro Eto, Deputy Vice Minister for Foreign Policy Shotaro Yachi and other ministry officials have attended the panel’s seven weekly meetings held so far.

Saito said he and the acting chairman, Akihiko Tanaka, a professor at the University of Tokyo, will draft a tentative set of proposals by Wednesday so that the members can exchange views and modify the draft behind closed doors in their next meeting that day. The chairman has held news conferences after each meeting, but he said there will be no disclosure of any information about the discussions until the last session on April 24 is over and the recommendations are finalized.

The panel was created in the wake of revelations that Katsutoshi Matsuo, a former logistics chief, allegedly embezzled money from discretionary government funds.

The 55-year-old Matsuo, who was arrested March 10 on suspicion of swindling the government out of at least 42 million yen, and indicted last Friday, allegedly used the funds from the Cabinet Secretariat for personal reasons between 1993 and 1999 when he headed a ministry division in charge of arranging prime ministers’ overseas visits.

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