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Japan Highway Public Corp. on Monday turned down a request from a key government panel to have the six officials involved in drafting a secret balance sheet last year appear at a panel meeting.

The semigovernmental firm also snubbed the panel’s request to have Sachio Katagiri, former deputy chief of Japan Highway’s Shikoku branch who triggered the row over the secret balance sheet, appear at the meeting.

The panel is discussing privatization of Japan Highway and three other semigovernmental expressway operators.

Katagiri alleged in a magazine article that the balance sheet compiled last year showed that Japan Highway’s debts exceed its assets by hundreds of billions of yen, in sharp contrast with the corporation’s “official” balance sheet showing its assets outnumber debts by trillions of yen.

Japan Highway later admitted that six officials were involved in compiling the “secret” version, although it insists the document was never authorized by their superiors.

Japan Highway President Haruho Fujii told the panel Monday that his organization decided not to comply with the panel’s request because it would lead to the six officials being identified publicly.

As for Katagiri, Japan Highway said it is not appropriate for him to appear before the panel, citing the ongoing libel suit it filed against him over the magazine article.