The former boss of a senior welfare ministry official who was arrested Sunday for alleged involvement in abusing a postage discount system for the disabled has indicated the ministry yielded to pressure from a lawmaker, investigative sources said Tuesday.
The former superior of Atsuko Muraki, 53, who was director general of the Equal Employment, Children and Families Bureau under the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, told prosecutors that ministry officials did a favor for a Democratic Party of Japan Diet member in exchange for backing legislation to promote self-support of the disabled, the sources said.
Neither the ex-boss nor the DPJ member were identified.
Muraki was arrested on suspicion of issuing a fabricated certificate in 2004 to falsely recognize an organization called Rin-no-kai, which has since been renamed Hakusan-kai, as a group for the disabled, thus enabling it to use the mail discount system.
The group is suspected of having been involved in a scam to defraud more than ¥3 billion in postage fees through the alleged abuse of the discount system for the disabled, involving clients that include electronics discount chain Best Denki Co.
The 57-year-old former superior of Muraki who formerly headed the ministry’s health and welfare department for people with disabilities instructed subordinates to issue a certificate, but never imagined they would commit an unlawful act, the sources said.
The former boss was voluntarily questioned by the special investigation squad of the Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office, they said.
Investigators suspect Muraki and her former superior were involved in the issuance of a bogus certificate in a bid to win support from the Diet member and groups for the disabled for legislation requiring the disabled to shoulder some financial burden for welfare services.
According to the sources, the former boss asked Muraki around February 2004 to “smoothly handle” the request by a member of the DPJ to issue a certificate for Rin-no-kai. The lawmaker allegedly made the request over the phone.
Tsutomu Kamimura, 39, a ministry official who was arrested last month, fabricated the certificate in June 2004 and the document was passed to Rin-no-kai, the sources said. Muraki was Kamimura’s former boss.
The outline of the legislation concerning the disabled was set by the ministry in July 2004 and a bill was compiled in December that year. It cleared the Diet in October 2005.
The group for the disabled allegedly tied up with companies such as an Osaka-based ad agency to send direct mail from firms including Best Denki by abusing the discount system to save on postage fees.
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