The Foreign Ministry will demand that a nongovernmental organization that falsified documents to get government subsidies in 2001 refrain from accepting the subsidies for fiscal 2002, and if it doesn’t cooperate, the funds will be withheld anyway, ministry officials said Monday.
The ministry wants the Japan Association for Greening Deserts, which assists China in reforestation projects, to drop its claims to 3.269 million yen it was to receive for the current fiscal year. The NGO will also be asked to give back the money paid to it last year and may face criminal charges, the officials said earlier.
The ministry was to inspect the association’s head office in Tottori on Tuesday and ask it to forgo the money, they said, adding that if the group refuses, the ministry will cancel the subsidy provision under legislation that allows it to do so under special circumstances.
Last year, the association presented a written request for about 4.08 million yen in government subsidies for a reforestation project in fiscal 2002, which runs through March, and the ministry decided to provide 80 percent of the money upon completion of the project.
The project involved purchasing a truck and planting 500,000 young trees in Inner Mongolia, the officials said.
But on Sunday, the ministry said it discovered that the group received some 2.5 million yen in subsidies for a similar project for fiscal 2001 after presenting a report to the ministry last April indicating it had completed the scheme, even though the project was not carried out.
In Tottori, Masao Toyama, 64, head of the NGO and an assistant professor at Tottori University, owned up to the allegations to reporters Monday morning and apologized to members of his group, claiming his “loose checks” led to the situation.
He said the Chinese people the group worked with may have produced a false statement concerning the project.
“Last April, we received a receipt from the Chinese interpreter, and all I did was sign it,” he said. “The people of Inner Mongolia . . . can sometimes lie.”
According to an investigation carried out by the ministry, the plantation in Inner Mongolia where the NGO said it conducted the project in fiscal 2001 does not exist.
The ministry plans to ask the NGO to pay back the money it received last year and may also press for criminal charges.
It was also learned Monday that Toyama had not informed Tottori University’s Arid Land Research Center, where he teaches, that he serves as head of the NGO.
According to the university’s secretariat, staff at public universities are required to give notification of any work they engage in off campus. The secretariat also noted that in fiscal 2001, Toyama went on 21 trips ostensibly for research, totaling some 100 days. Of these, 12 trips, or 80 days, involved overseas travel, including to China, university officials said.
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