The University of Tokyo decided Tuesday that Osamu Tsutsumi, a gynecology professor who serves as Crown Princess Masako’s chief doctor, should be suspended from duty for a month for embezzling state research grants.
The university will return roughly 15 million yen to the government, including 6.8 million yen to be paid by the professor himself.
On Tuesday, a university council headed by President Takeshi Sasaki heard the report of a special committee that has investigated the case.
According to the panel, 53-year-old Tsutsumi and his research group diverted 16.4 million yen from some 22.5 million yen in government subsidies toward purposes other than research over a five-year period up to fiscal 2002.
The task force has found that Tsutsumi’s team claimed costs for paying graduate students who did not work for it and used some 8 million yen to remodel the professor’s office and other purposes not related to research.
They allegedly kept the 16.4 million yen either in researchers’ individual bank accounts or in ready cash.
While the panel concluded that this constituted a case of fraudulent accounting, it was unable to determine if the professor used the money for private expenses and decided against dismissing the him, according to sources familiar with the case.
Sasaki voiced “deep regret” over the scandal and pledged to tighten discipline among the institution’s teaching and research staff regarding the use of public subsidies.
In a statement released through the university, Tsutsumi himself said he was repentant over the inappropriate use of the subsidies, although he denied diverting any of the money toward private purposes.
Tsutsumi was the physician in charge when Crown Princess Masako, wife of Crown Prince Naruhito, gave birth to Princess Aiko on Dec. 1, 2001. He briefed reporters after the delivery.
Tsutsumi started working on a part-time basis at the Hospital of the Imperial Household in 1990.
Tuesday’s decision may affect his position with the Imperial family, although this is based on a private contract with the family that is not necessarily linked to his job at the university.
The government pays subsidies to researchers after they estimate the full amount of research costs and obtain approval from relevant ministries, but all unused subsidies must be returned to the state at the end of each fiscal year.
In a news conference Tuesday morning, education minister Atsuko Toyama said researchers at public institutions should have high ethical standards “because they are spending taxpayer money.”
Toyama also said the government should review its system of screening and checking the accounting of the subsidies given to researchers.
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