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The head of Japan Organ Transplant Network, the nation’s sole coordinator of organ transplants, gave 70 million yen to a professor and a hospital director who helped establish the network in 1997, according to sources familiar with the case.

Yoshio Komurasaki, 74, head of the transplant network, gave 35 million yen each to Akihiro Igata, then director of Chubu National Hospital, and Kiyoshi Kurokawa, then a professor of the University of Tokyo’s medical department, as subsidies between February and March 1996, the sources told Kyodo News.

The sources said the 70 million yen was part of 800 million yen Komurasaki injected into the transplant network, medical facilities and foundations through a leading horse-owners association he had chaired until April.

Komurasaki has been the president of Yokohama Warehouse Co. since 1963 and is a leading supporter of organ transplants in Japan. He founded a predecessor of the transplant network in 1973.

The horse-owners association is subsidized by the Japan Racing Association, Japan’s top horse race organizer and an affiliate of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry.

Igata became chairman of a preparatory committee for the transplant network in December 1993. Kurokawa served as chairman of a committee specializing in organ transplants under the Council on Public Health, an advisory panel to the health minister, beginning in January 1997.

Igata and Kurokawa recently told Kyodo News that Komurasaki brought the funding proposal to them and that they do not remember doing any favors for him.

Komurasaki’s organization was chosen to serve as the sole intermediary between potential organ donors and transplant recipients following deliberations and reports presented by the two panels.

About 500 organizations such as medical universities, hospitals and prefectural governments are members of Komurasaki’s organization.

Network sources said the provision of subsidies “invites misunderstanding” in relation to the background of the transplant network’s establishment. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has begun looking into the subsidies.

After the preparatory committee proposed to transform Komurasaki’s organization into the transplant network in August 1997, the committee specializing in organ transplants approved the idea, establishing it in October 1997.

Igata had also been involved as the head of a preparatory committee for transforming Komurasaki’s organization, initially established in 1973 to promote kidney transplants, into a kidney transplant network in 1995.

Igata told Kyodo News that when the transplant network was established, “There was inadequate state funding and the health ministry judged that dependence on Komurasaki’s funding was inevitable, and we (the preparatory committee) made that proposal based on that policy.”

Kurokawa said: “I do not have an interest in relation to Komurasaki. The request for the subsidies was made to the horse-owner’s association. I thought the association was a public organization. I didn’t know it was a private body.”

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