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The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will consider preventive measures against subsidy embezzlement following a series of corporate scandals involving its research and development support, a top ministry official said Thursday.

“We must consider preventative measures such as surprise inspections and training of our personnel,” Katsusada Hirose, vice minister of economy, trade and industry, told a news conference.

Earlier in the day, METI’s Kinki bureau said it has brought an accusation of pocketing government subsidies against an Osaka-based computer software developer and its five executives.

The firm, Computer Consultant, has already been searched by Osaka prosecutors on suspicion of illegally obtaining 160 million yen in subsidies under R&D promotion measures METI introduced in fiscal 1997.

The firm, set up in 1975, is suspected of illegally obtaining excessive subsidies through padding of expenses by its president, Masaki Kambayashi, 59, and other executives, according to investigators. The firm received subsidies from 1998 to 2000.

It was learned Wednesday that Toshiba Corp. padded some 5 million yen in personnel expenses to receive subsidies from METI in 1994 for the development of a power plant using fuel cells.

“It was very regrettable that such an incident occurred at a time when R&D has become essential for the innovation of the Japanese economy,” Hirose said.

METI plans to order the major electronics maker to return the excess subsidies, the vice minister said.

The subsidies are provided through the METI-affiliated New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, or NEDO.

In 2000, Kyocera Corp. was found to have illegally obtained subsidies through similar expense padding. At that time, METI responded by suspending commissioning of NEDO projects to the firm.

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