• Kyodo

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Two senior Nagoya Railroad Co. officials were arrested Tuesday for allegedly covering up an incident in which a company bus driver was involved in an accident while driving with an expired license.

Those arrested are Takamasa Saito, who was planning and management chief at the head office at the time of the incident, and Toshiki Okada, who headed the vehicle operations office in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, where the accident took place.

The driver had failed to renew his license after it expired in October 2001 but was operating a bus on a route in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, on Feb. 19 when a car driven by a 21-year-old college student bumped into it.

The bus driver continued his route, unaware of the accident, but the student reported it to police.

Saito, 49, is suspected of ordering Okada to make a false report claiming the carrier, commonly known as Meitetsu, learned about the driver’s expired license after he returned to the Nagoya-based company’s Okazaki office when the firm in fact knew about the expired license while the driver was still operating the vehicle, police said.

Shigeru Uno, the former chief of operations at the Okazaki office, discovered that the driver was without a proper license when the bus was at another bus stop further along the route, but still allowed him to continue driving for some 3 km until a substitute driver and vehicle took over, according to investigators.

Okada, 45, allegedly submitted a false report to police June 17 in line with Saito’s instructions, effectively concealing the fact that Uno let the driver remain behind the wheel.

According to investigators, Saito has admitted to giving the instructions, while Okada has acknowledged that he falsified the report, although he claimed he did not think it constituted a crime.

Five people have already been indicted in the case, including the driver and Uno, but this is the first time for Meitetsu headquarters officials to be arrested.

Police said they believe the company also presented a false report on the accident to the Chubu Regional Transport Bureau in violation of the Road Trucking Law.

Meitetsu issued a statement saying the arrest of two of its employees was deeply regrettable.

“Although we are disclosing all the findings of our internal investigation (into the matter) through the media and also reporting them to police and transport authorities, we hope that all arrested employees give all the facts so that police can unravel the entire picture surrounding the incident as swiftly as possible,” the statement said.