• Kyodo

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Chiefs of the Osaka Regional Correction Bureau engaged in shady accounting practices over five years up to March 31, 2002, according to copies of bureau accounting records obtained Monday by Kyodo News.

The documents, which cover fiscal 1997 through fiscal 2001, indicate the bureau chiefs made out self-addressed invoices for “research” budgets, approved these requests, received the money and issued self-addressed receipts.

Officials at the bureau said there is nothing wrong with how these bureau heads approved so-called research expenses, which are often used to pay informants.

However, the latest revelations come on the heels of admissions by the Justice Ministry that its regional correction bureaus, which have jurisdiction over prisons and detention houses, have in the past used research funds to pay mobsters in an effort to deter gang warfare at these facilities. Against such a backdrop, such shoddy accounting practices may also be more closely scrutinized, observers said.

The expenses at the Osaka correctional facility totaled 500,000 yen each in fiscal 1997 and fiscal 1998, 1.68 million yen in fiscal 1999, 1.22 million yen in fiscal 2000 and 1.38 million yen in fiscal 2001. Monthly research spending varied from tens of thousands of yen to 200,000 yen.

For June 2001, for example, the head of the bureau submitted a 200,000 yen bill to himself on May 28, approved it the following day, requested the sum from an official in charge of payments May 30, received a check for it June 12, and wrote a receipt addressed to himself the same day. He also wrote the monthly payment statement.

Similar steps were taken practically every month over the five years, the records show.

An official at the bureau’s general affairs division said, “Our payment statements are supported by receipts from people paid, but we cannot disclose them.”

One former chief said, “I wasn’t engaged in anything inappropriate. Research expenses are necessary for corrections work.”

But Koichi Kikuta, a criminology professor at Meiji University, said: “At prisons, budgets, including those to reward inmates for work, are compiled in detail and rigidly executed. It is outrageous and socially unacceptable that senior officials are allowed to use money through such lax procedures.”

The ministry admitted Sunday it used part of its research budget to pay mobsters to help deter gang conflicts in prisons and detention houses.

Funds intended for its regional corrections bureaus were instead doled out to gangsters in return for information, ministry officials said.

The ministry refused to reveal details, including the amount of money paid out, but former chiefs of some of the corrections bureaus and other sources said the ministry coughed up tens of thousands of yen on each occasion.

The ministry claimed all such spending was legal.

The Tokyo, Sapporo, Sendai, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima, Takamatsu and Fukuoka corrections offices received research funds totaling 3.6 million yen in fiscal 2003, according to the ministry’s Correction Bureau and accounting records at the offices.

The amount was 23 million yen in fiscal 1999, but has been on the decline because it has become easier to obtain information via such means as the Internet, the bureau said.

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