The Foreign Ministry dismissed two ministry officials on Monday, following their indictment earlier in the day on charges they mishandled about 22 million yen in public funds, the ministry said.
Hiromu Kobayashi, a 45-year-old former assistant director in the Office of the Deputy Director General for General Affairs at the Economic Affairs Bureau, and his 38-year-old subordinate, Tsutomu Okuma, allegedly padded bills related to last year’s Group of Eight summit in Okinawa Prefecture.
They were indicted by public prosecutors along with two executives of a Tokyo-based limousine rental firm.
The ministry also said it will cut the pay of Vice Foreign Minister Yutaka Kawashima and former Deputy Vice Minister Tomoyuki Abe as part of disciplinary measures against the indicted pair’s superiors at the time of the alleged fraud.
Kobayashi and Okuma were stripped of their posts shortly after their arrests three weeks ago in Tokyo along with two senior officials of Hinomaru Limousine Co. — Seiji Kobayashi, 60, a managing director, and Yuji Takizawa, 51, head of the company’s Akasaka office.
The ministry also meted out disciplinary measures against 12 other officials, including a one-month suspension for Koji Matsuda and Hidehiko Kobayashi, who received taxi vouchers from the indicted pair when they handled accounting and other logistics for the Okinawa summit.
According to ministry findings, Matsuda — who is consul in Chiang Mai, Thailand — received taxi vouchers worth 1.25 million yen and used about one-third of that amount for personal taxi rides and cashed the rest.
Hidehiko Kobayashi, an official in the Second North America Division, was handed 900,000 yen worth of vouchers and used about one-third for taxi rides, cashed another third, and distributed the rest to other ministry staffers.
Yutaka Iimura, deputy vice foreign minister, told a news conference Monday afternoon that Matsuda and Hidehiko Kobayashi were not fired because they were not involved in padding expenses and were unaware that the vouchers were handed to them as a result of bill padding.
That explanation, however, falls short of answering why the two officials simply received a huge sum of vouchers without asking about their origin or purpose, indicating these practices were widespread in the ministry.
“It is true that they lacked a sense of responsibility as civil servants,” Iimura said. “But they did not really question how they were receiving such vouchers.”
Normally, ministry staff request a taxi voucher from their section heads each time they leave work late. Receiving a bunch of vouchers is therefore unusual.
The investigation also revealed that Hidehiko Kobayashi was distributing vouchers to other staffers to return home after dining out among themselves.
Yoshiyuki Motomura, ambassador to the United Nations, who served as head of the secretariat for the Okinawa summit, was reprimanded and voluntarily took a 20 percent pay cut for three months.
Kawashima and Abe were slapped with a 10 percent pay cut for one month. Iimura and six others voluntarily returned 10 percent of a month’s pay.
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