Tokyo prosecutors have questioned two senior health ministry officials in connection with a bribery probe involving the Japan Dental Association, sources said Thursday.

The officials are believed to have received hundreds of thousands of yen in cash from Yukihiro Yoshida, a former lawmaker backed by the association, at restaurants when it was bribing a government panel member in connection with government health policies between 2001 and 2003, they said.

A former member of the Central Social Insurance Medical Council, an advisory panel to the minister of health, labor and welfare, and some association officials have been arrested on bribery charges in the case.

The prosecutors searched ministry offices May 1 on suspicion that bureaucrats were involved in the misdeeds.

One of the two senior officials questioned by prosecutors admitted he had had lunch with Yoshida, who failed in his bid to win re-election to the House of Representatives last November, according to the sources.

But the official denied having been entertained by or receiving any request from the association.

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