A record 8,347 Japanese nationals sought assistance or advice at overseas embassies and consulates in 2000 after becoming victims of crimes, up 10 percent from the previous year, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

According to an annual survey on the protection of Japanese nationals abroad, the number of accidents and incidents involving Japanese also hit a record 14,752 cases, up 8.7 percent.

The most prominent rise in criminal cases was seen in those who were injured in robberies, jumping 113.2 percent to 435. The report says the main culprit for this was Spain, where 237 victims — a 146.9 percent rise — were robbed and hurt, mainly because they were held by the neck while being robbed.

By region, diplomatic outposts in Asia recorded the highest number of cases reported with 5,014, followed by 4,763 cases in Europe, 3,230 cases in North America and 905 cases in Oceania.

The embassy in Thailand dealt with the most cases — 1,592 — followed by the embassy in France with 1,294, Britain with 794, and the consulate general in Los Angeles with 744 cases. The embassy in Thailand topped the list for the eighth straight year.

A ministry official cautioned that violent crimes are on the rise, and that more Japanese are getting injured in car accidents by not wearing seat belts. They are also increasingly becoming victims of fraud, the official added.

Coverup denied

Seiken Sugiura, senior vice foreign minister, on Thursday denied media reports that he conspired last month with Yutaka Kawashima, then Vice Foreign Minister, to conceal the suspension of a diplomat over the misuse of government funds.

“I think the word ‘conceal’ is very inappropriate,” Sugiura told a news conference. “Also, I never discussed this matter with Mr. Kawashima.” A former official at the embassy in Palau was suspended for a year, effective from Aug. 1, for misusing embassy funds.

Kyoji Komachi, deputy vice foreign minister, said Monday, however, that senior officials had refrained from publicizing the move or informing Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka.

The ministry has found that Fumiyoshi Miyazaki, 31, spent at least $10,000 in embassy funds for personal ends between February 1999 — when he was appointed treasurer at the embassy — and last October, when his superior found that the embassy’s bank account balance was light to the tune of $14,300.

It is believed he used the money to buy meals and airplane tickets.

Komachi said he believes senior ministry bureaucrats consulted with Sugiura and decided not to disclose the matter.

He did not specify who actually contacted the senior vice minister.

Sugiura said Thursday that, several days before the July 29 House of Councilors election, Yutaka Iimura, then deputy vice foreign minister, and Personnel Division Director Akitaka Saiki informed him of the details of the case.

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