• Kyodo

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Four Saitama Prefectural Police officers are suspected of freeing a mobster arrested in a drug case in 1997 after they mishandled the investigation, police said Wednesday.

Although the three-year statute of limitations for the misdeed has already expired, police turned over to prosecutors Wednesday their accusation against the four, three of whom are no longer on the force, of concealing a crime, and penalized one of the four — a 54-year-old inspector — with a 5 percent salary cut for one month. The name of the active officer involved has been withheld.

Among the four is Kunio Seino, 60, former Kasukabe Police Station chief, who retired in March.

Seino told Kyodo News, “I decided to free the gangster on my own responsibility, but I deeply regret that I have badly hurt public trust in the police.”

Police separately reprimanded a 59-year-old assistant inspector at the station who was a section head of the community security division, because he failed to keep the documents on the case.

They also sent papers to prosecutors accusing the 61-year-old gangster of violating the Stimulant Drugs Control Law and damaging public documents, they said.

According to police, the gangster, whose name was not provided, was caught by a police officer from Kasukabe Police Station after breaking into a house in Kasukabe in July 1997. He was arrested on suspicion of violating the Stimulant Drug Control Law after he tested positive for drugs.

During interrogations, the police officer filled in a document concerning the suspect’s testimony, but rewrote the time of the questioning on the document after another policeman pointed out that the times listed for the arrest and the questioning were the same.

The gangster tore up the document, saying the investigation was inappropriate as the officers had rewritten the document arbitrarily, according to police.

The four officers in question — Seino, the deputy chief of the station, the deputy chief of the criminal division and the chief of the community security division — decided to free the gangster after discussing the matter and talking with the police officer who had questioned the suspect.

According to police, the four decided to let the gangster go out of fear that the mishandling of the case would be revealed if they sent the case to prosecutors. They also told the officer who had questioned the gangster to keep the case secret.

The prefectural force started to investigate the case after an acquaintance of the mobster informed them of the case this year.

It was revealed in January that Saitama police failed to turn over to prosecutors the case of a woman arrested for drug use in 1995 after she tested positive for stimulants. They instead sent papers only over her alleged possession of drugs.

This lead to the reprimand of 11 officers, including Takayoshi Yashiro, director of the prefectural police headquarters.

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