Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka indicated Wednesday she will thoroughly investigate reports that a former ambassador to Cuba diverted taxpayer money for private purposes.
“We must do what the nation thinks sensible to do under the leadership of politicians,” Tanaka told a session of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.
The diplomat in question reportedly spent at least 30 million yen in public money during his tenure as envoy to Havana from 1987 to 1991, when he retired from the Foreign Ministry. He died in 1996.
The ambassador used the money to buy furniture and electronic appliances for a restaurant he was planning to open in Havana after his retirement, according to the Mainichi Shimbun, which broke the news Tuesday.
Mainichi put the embezzled amount at 30 million yen, but the source said the ministry has not been able to pinpoint a specific amount because of differing testimony from those who knew about the alleged embezzlement.
The ministry heard reports of the misuse of funds in 1990 and later confirmed it, the paper said. The ambassador eventually gave up his restaurant venture and retired in April 1991, it said.
He paid back to the ministry around 3 million yen, or 10 percent of the misused funds, according to the newspaper.
At the committee meeting Wednesday, Yutaka Imura, head of the ministry’s secretariat, said: “It is nearly 10 years ago and no record has been left. Given that the former ambassador is dead, it is difficult to confirm facts.”
The Foreign Ministry has been rocked in recent months by the embezzlement scandal involving Katsutoshi Matsuo, a former official in charge of logistics for VIP trips overseas who is accused of diverting more than 400 miliion yen in government funds for personal use.
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