• Kyodo

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The Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office began a second round of questioning Sunday to determine if the supervisors of a suspicious Osaka prosecutor tried to cover up his alleged evidence-tampering, sources said.

The cross-examination will take about three days, the sources said.

The top prosecutors are expected to ask Hiromichi Otsubo and Motoaki Saga, the former chief and deputy chief of the special investigation department at the Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The two will be asked to explain their perceptions when they were told about the allegations against prosecutor Tsunehiko Maeda, 43, during a probe into a postal abuse case involving a senior health ministry official who was later acquitted.

The questioning is intended to determine if they were aware of his alleged misdeeds, the sources said.

The move comes after the two supervisors were questioned in Tokyo on a voluntary basis Thursday.

Although the pair were informed Maeda tampered with data that had been seized in connection with the probe, it is believed that they didn’t bother to investigate or disclose the allegations.

The top prosecutors have already questioned Maeda’s colleagues once and are believed to be trying to verify whether the supervisors’ explanations differ from those of his colleagues.

Maeda was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of altering computer data seized during a probe into the postal abuse case.

Meanwhile, Atsuko Muraki, 54, senior official at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry who had been on leave from the ministry following her indictment in 2009, was reinstated at the ministry when her acquittal was finalized.

According to prosecution sources, Maeda phoned Saga in early February this year, immediately after the start of Muraki’s trial, to confess that he “might have retouched” the data stored on a floppy disk.

Saga reported to Otsubo, who was his immediate boss, about the confession. But the two concluded that the data alteration would pose “no problem.” They reported so to Takashi Kobayashi, top prosecutor at the Osaka Prosecutor’s Office, on grounds that the floppy disk was not used as evidence in Muraki’s trial, so its contents would not affect the trial anyway, the sources said.

The Osaka prosecutors seized the disk in May last year at the home of Tsutomu Kamimura, a Muraki subordinate who is facing a separate trial over the case, according to Muraki’s acquittal ruling.

The disk contained a text file containing the same fabricated official document that enabled a bogus organization to abuse postal discounts for the handicapped.

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