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The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office has admitted that its special investigation squad lost some of the evidence for a bid-rigging case involving a government-linked agency.

The Fair Trade Commission last month raided the Japan Green Resources Agency under the agricultural ministry and entities related to the agency. Some of them were alleged to have made political donations to farm minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka.

The prosecutors said Friday that evidence packed in several cardboard boxes was transferred to their office from the FTC in late April, but one of the boxes went missing while prosecutors’ staff was sorting them out.

The material in the missing box was inadvertently disposed of by cleaning staff, they said. The lost material is believed to have included ledgers confiscated during searches by the FTC.

The FTC has accused the resources agency and other entities of involvement in rigging government contracts for construction of forestry roads.

Shuji Iwamura, deputy chief of the prosecutors’ office, apologized for losing the evidence.

“It’s true that an incident occurred in which our staff members mistakenly lost part of the evidence we received from the FTC and the evidence was dumped. We are fully responsible and can offer nothing but apologies,” Iwamura said.

The Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office said there were four similar cases of mishandling evidence last year. In one, investigators mistakenly disposed of seized amphetamines when the trial was still under way.

Takeshi Tsuchimoto, a former prosecutor at the Supreme Public Prosector’s Office, criticized the lax handling of evidence. “I’ve heard of loss of the evidence, but I’ve never heard of a case in which prosecutors lost an entire box full of confiscated material,” Tsuchimoto said

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