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The Sendai District Court ordered four former Miyagi Prefectural Police officers Thursday to repay a combined 600,000 yen claimed as travel expenses, ruling that some of the trips were never made.

The penalty stems from a lawsuit filed in 2002 by a citizens’ ombudsman demanding that about 3.8 million yen be repaid by 10 officers who alleged listed fake trips on the prefecture’s expense account over a two-year period starting in April 1994.

The defendants argued the trips took place and were part of necessary official duties.

According to the Japan Citizen’s Ombudsman Association, it is the first time a court has ordered police to repay travel expense funds.

Shizuoka Prefectural Police returned funds claimed for travel after admitting some trips were never made, but no court action was involved, the association said.

“There is strong suspicion of irregularity, given, for instance, that part of the travel expenses were not remitted to (the accounts of) the travelers,” Judge Yoichi Ono said.

The plaintiffs said many of the officers could not explain the nature of their trips. The defendants claimed it was due to the length of time that had passed since they made them.

Miyagi Gov. Shiro Asano told reporters later in the day that the ruling was “grave” and said he had renewed his resolve go after the prefectural police over another money scandal — its misuse of prefectural funds earmarked for paying informants.

Asano, considered a reformist, has withheld the informant budget, saying there are suspicions that fictitious outlays were created to pool the money into slush funds.

Numerous abuses have surfaced in recent years alleging other prefectural forces diverted money for investigations into slush funds.

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