• Kyodo News

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Police raided the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry on Monday following the weekend arrest of a ministry official on suspicion of taking bribes from a firm that sells contact lenses.

Katsutoshi Sumitomo, 50, assistant chief of a pension division in the ministry, and Akinori Tsukuda, 55, executive of Shinwa Medical Inc., were arrested Saturday by the Osaka Prefectural Police.

Besides allegedly taking cash, it came to light Monday that Sumitomo also may have received other benefits, such as a cell phone and taxi tickets, from the Osaka-based company, investigative sources said.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Ritsuo Hosokawa said it is “extremely regrettable” that a ministry official has been arrested for suspected bribery and that his ministry will cooperate fully with investigative authorities to get to the bottom of the matter.

The police suspect Sumitomo received ¥20 million to ¥30 million in cash over several years from Shinwa in return for helping the company avoid ministry inspections.

The ministry had been stepping up inspections of eye clinics at contact lens shops due to an increasing number of bogus claims for medical remuneration. Sumitomo was in charge of such inspections at the time as a member of the ministry’s medical division in the health insurance bureau.

The investigative sources said Sumitomo often used taxi tickets purchased by Shinwa when he returned home in the western Tokyo city of Fuchu, about 30 km from the ministry in central Tokyo.

The investigators also believe his mobile phone was provided by Shinwa and the phone bills were charged to the company. Sumitomo used the phone to send text messages to demand cash from the company, the sources alleged.

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