• Kyodo


A bribery case involving Nara prefectural police officers took two bizarre twists Wednesday with prosecutors raiding sites that had previously been searched and the discovery of a charred body believed to be that of an officer at the center of the scandal.

The body — believed to be that of Hidehira Nakano, 58, a police superintendent sacked over allegedly receiving bribes from the former president of a local trucking company — was found in a burned-out car in the parking lot of a cemetery in the town of Shimoichi in the prefecture.

Sources close to the case said a blazer belonging to Nakano and a suicide note were placed on the graves of the Nakano family at the cemetery.

Earlier in the day, the Nara District Public Prosecutor’s Office raided over 10 locations in connection with the case. The rare move came as prosecutors determined a previous police search of the same facilities in March was insufficient, the sources said.

Following last month’s raids, Nara police sent papers on the people concerned to prosecutors but did not make any arrests until Tuesday, leading to criticism that the police were excessively lenient to their own.

The arrests were over another connected bribery case.

On March 15, police sent to prosecutors papers on Nakano, who is suspected of receiving about 12 million yen in cash from Katsuhiro Yamada, former president of Nara Sagawa Kyubin Co.

Yamada, 59, allegedly transferred the money to the bank account of Nakano’s wife on 58 occasions between April 1996 and this past January.

Nakano’s wife was listed as an executive of the company, police said, adding the money was deposited into her bank account as salary payments even though she did not actually do any work at the firm.

Nakano admitted to investigators that he received the money but denied that it was a bribe for any favor. Nakano’s house was among the locations raided Wednesday.

Another prefectural police superintendent, Masayuki Kawaguchi, 53, is suspected of having the trucking company pay his mobile phone bills from April 1998 to January this year. The bills totaled 290,000 yen.

Kawaguchi’s case has also been handed over to prosecutors, and he has been suspended for six months.

Nara police and prosecutors also jointly raided locations in connection with the case that led to Tuesday’s two arrests.

Yoshio Harada, 53, a former Nara police officer and former vice president of Nara Sagawa Express, and Koichi Ueda, 48, a former president of a Nara Sagawa affiliate, were arrested on suspicion of fraudulently acquiring bankbooks and cash cards in September 1995 by opening bank accounts under the names of five Nara police officers without their knowledge.

Money in the accounts, which were disguised to appear as belonging to Nara Sagawa Express employees, had in most cases been withdrawn immediately after the deposits were made, according to police.

A total of 25 million yen was transferred to the five accounts between October 1995 and December 1996. Almost all the money was withdrawn from the accounts.

Investigators suspect Harada and Ueda, both former Nara police officers, used their personal connections to stage the scam.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.