The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee will again try to get former diplomat Kazuhiko Togo to give testimony in connection with a scandal involving a government-funded committee on Russia, panel members said Thursday.
The members said the Lower House committee will deliver the letter of request to Togo’s Tokyo residence. He is currently staying in Europe.
The panel initially asked Togo to give unsworn testimony in early April, when he was dismissed from the ministry for improper conduct stemming from his close ties with arrested lawmaker Muneo Suzuki.
Togo, 57, who was then director general of the European and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, allegedly approved paying for a group of Japanese to attend a conference in Tel Aviv in April 2000 from funds budgeted for the Cooperation Committee, despite opposition from the Treaties Bureau.
As director general, Togo was in charge of the Cooperation Committee.
Togo, former Japanese ambassador to the Netherlands, sent a letter to the Lower House committee in mid-May, claiming he was recuperating from an illness and would probably be able to testify in June. He followed it up with an English-language medical certificate in late May.
The certificate, however, did not specify his alleged illness or where he was receiving treatment. It was accompanied by a note saying he wanted to protect his privacy, committee members said.
“We can’t accept it as a formal medical certificate. He is not contacting us and being dishonest,” Committee Chairman Koichi Yoshida said. “If he continues to refuse to show up, we will summon him as a sworn witness.”
Masaru Sato, a veteran Russian affairs expert at the Foreign Ministry, and Akira Maejima, assistant director of the ministry’s Oceanian Division, were arrested May 14 on suspicion of forcing the Cooperation Committee to pay, illegally, 30 million yen in travel expenses for the group going to Tel Aviv.
In early June, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office dispatched prosecutors to Europe to question Togo about how the payment was made and whether he was aware of its illegal nature, investigative sources said.
They questioned Togo for several days with the cooperation of local authorities, according to the sources.
The prosecutors are not likely to file charges against Togo, however, because they believe Sato was the ringleader in the scam. They allege Sato utilized the influence of scandal-hit lawmaker Suzuki in drawing up the scheme and ordered Maejima to prepare a document for it, according to the sources.
Togo was dismissed April 26 for inciting policy divisions within a ministry bureau on Russian affairs.
Both Sato and Togo are said to have worked closely with the disgraced Suzuki, who quit the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in March under pressure amid a series of scandals, including alleged meddling in Foreign Ministry affairs.
Suzuki, a six-term Lower House member from Hokkaido, was arrested June 19 for allegedly accepting a 5 million yen bribe from Hokkaido logging firm Yamarin in exchange for arranging favorable treatment from the Forestry Agency. The Tokyo District Court later allowed prosecutors to detain him until Sunday.
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