OSAKA – The Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office on Saturday began searching the homes and offices of two senior prosecutors suspected of covering up an alleged act of evidence-tampering by a subordinate who was leading a recent postal abuse investigation.
Hiromichi Otsubo, 57, and Motoaki Saga, 49, were arrested Friday in connection with evidence-tampering allegations against Tsunehiko Maeda, 43.
Otsubo was deputy chief prosecutor at the Kyoto District Public Prosecutor’s Office and Saga was head of an investigative department at the Kobe District Public Prosecutor’s Office. Both men have been relieved of their posts.
According to sources close to the prosecutors, Saga wrote a memo in a notebook to create a record of a fake interview with Maeda. The memo says Maeda told Saga he didn’t realize the data of a floppy disk file had been overwritten because he “could not hear mechanical sounds from the disk drive” of his computer, the sources said.
The Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office suspects Saga made up the memo to cover up Maeda’s intentional tampering with the data.
Saga and Otsubo also ordered Maeda to write a detailed report on how the data was overwritten “by mistake,” the sources said.
Maeda was arrested Sept. 21 on suspicion of tampering with a confiscated floppy disk to improve the chances of convicting a health ministry bureaucrat who was accused of taking part in the postal abuse scandal. The health bureaucrat was acquitted Sept. 10.
The case against the bureaucrat was handled by the Special Investigation Department of the Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office. Otsubo was chief and Saga deputy chief of the department at the time. They are suspected of hindering the probe into Maeda, prosecution sources said earlier.
Maeda told investigators that he told his bosses he intentionally altered data on a floppy disk seized as evidence during a probe into a bogus organization suspected of abusing a mail discount system for handicapped people, the sources said earlier.
Otsubo and Saga are suspected of neglecting to correctly report Maeda’s remark to the head and deputy head of the Osaka Prosecutor’s Office, the sources said.
On Jan. 30, one of Maeda’s colleagues told Saga the floppy disk might have been altered, prosecution sources said. Saga later telephoned Maeda to confirm he intentionally altered the data, and Maeda is believed to have admitted it, the sources said.
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