• Kyodo News


The Supreme Court rejected an appeal by a Foreign Ministry official found guilty of misusing government funds and interfering in bidding for an aid project for Russia under the influence of Lower House member Muneo Suzuki, according to court sources.

Because the top court’s Third Petty Bench turned down the appeal Tuesday, the guilty verdict for Masaru Sato, 49, now stands, the sources said.

Sato, also a best-selling writer, was one of 11 people close to Suzuki who were indicted in connection with the outspoken lawmaker, a convicted bribe-taker.

Sato was sentenced by the Tokyo District Court in February 2005 to 30 months in prison, suspended for four years, a ruling upheld by the Tokyo High Court in January 2007.

Suzuki, who was heavily involved in diplomacy over the Russian-held isles off Hokkaido, was given a two-year sentence by the district and high courts for taking bribes. His Supreme Court appeal is pending.

Sato said he “feels sorry” that the courts rejected his claim of not committing any wrongdoing and accused prosecutors of “abusing their authority” in charging Suzuki and him.

Sato, who had been an intelligence analyst and a Russian affairs expert at the Foreign Ministry, got an international aid institution to illegally disburse ¥33 million for purposes other than the original intent between March and June 2000, according to the lower court rulings.

The now-defunct aid institution, the Cooperation Committee, was set up with Japanese funds with the initial purpose of helping Russia and former Soviet republics. But Sato used the money to finance projects involving academics related to Israel, the courts said.

The lower courts determined that the misappropriation was implemented in consideration of Suzuki’s intention. Sato is now suspended from the ministry and will eventually lose his job.

Sato also interfered with the Cooperation Committee’s bidding for a power generation facility project on disputed Kunashiri Island off Hokkaido, leaking bidding information to Mitsui & Co. in 2000, thereby allowing the trading house to win a contract for the project, the lower courts said.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.