Mitsubishi Research Institute Inc. swindled the government-run Japan Bank for International Cooperation out of 8 million yen in official development assistance earmarked for Southeast Asia, JBIC officials said Saturday.

The JBIC has asked the think tank to repay the sum plus interest, and suspended its bidding for JBIC research and other contracts for six months until February, the officials said.

The institute’s international project department falsely billed the JBIC for 1.57 million yen by padding receipts after receiving an order to evaluate an ODA-funded project to build schools in Indonesia in March 2002, they said. The JBIC paid the institute for the work in October.

This included billing the JBIC for purchases of digital cameras instead of 600,000 yen worth of disposable cameras it said it needed for the project at the time of contract, they said.

The institute also received extra payments for projects in Thailand and Papua New Guinea by exaggerating staff members’ airfares, the officials said.

According to the officials, a temporary employee informed the institute of the wrongdoings and it would have been difficult to detect the misconduct if this person had not come forward.

The institute said it will repay the money Tuesday.

“It is highly regrettable a scandal like this occurred and we strictly punished the employees involved,” an official at the think tank said.

The JBIC, the product of an October 1999 merger of the Export-Import Bank of Japan and the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund, is Japan’s main foreign aid agency.

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