OSAKA – A fellow prosecutor Tsunehiko Maeda allegedly confided in regarding data tampering linked to a postal abuse probe kept the information to himself for six months, a prosecution source said Monday.
Maeda allegedly told the 35-year-old unnamed prosecutor at the Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office in July last year that he falsified data on a floppy disk seized as evidence in the case. The unnamed prosecutor, however, didn’t report the transgression to his superiors until Jan. 30, the source said.
Maeda, a member of the Osaka district office’s Special Investigation Department, was arrested Sept. 21 on suspicion of altering the data to build his case against a former health ministry bureaucrat who has since been acquitted. The original data would have supported the woman’s innocence.
The Supreme Public Prosecutors Office, which is investigating Maeda, is questioning his 35-year-old colleague about the six-month silence, the source said.
The prosecutor, who belonged to the district office’s criminal investigation division, took part in the postal probe led by Maeda in May last year and was in charge of questioning a subordinate of the acquitted bureaucrat, the source said.
The prosecutor later found that the data on the floppy disk, which was seized during a probe of a bogus organization that had abused a mail discount system for disabled people, was not consistent with the case they were building against the bureaucrat, the sources said, adding he then told Maeda about the discrepancy.
Despite the glaring inconsistency, Maeda went ahead and arrested the woman on June 14 last year and indicted her soon after on July 4. Maeda did not report the mismatch to his superior at the time.
After the indictment, Maeda told his colleague he intentionally altered the data to match his prosecution scenario. His colleague didn’t tell senior prosecutors about the alleged crime until Jan. 30.
On Friday, the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office arrested two senior prosecutors on suspicion of covering up the alleged destruction of evidence by Maeda.
Investigative sources said earlier that Maeda told investigators he told his bosses about the altered data. The two bosses, however, are suspected of neglecting to correctly report his remark to the head and deputy head of the Osaka office, and of trying to make it appear that Maeda tampered with the data by accident.
The government ordered its prosecutors Monday to clean up their act as the arrests of two senior members over an alleged evidence-tampering coverup threatened to shake up the justice system.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said he was “astounded” by the arrests and called the problems in prosecutor’s offices very serious.
“Before anything else, there must be a thorough investigation and examination,” Sengoku said at a news conference, referring to the unprecedented scandal.
He said it would be “unproductive” if top prosecutors only tried to point fingers at each other regarding the arrests last week of Hiromichi Otsubo and Motoaki Saga, formerly the chief and deputy chief of the Special Investigation Department at the Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The pair were taken into custody after last month’s arrest of Tsunehiko Maeda, a subordinate who is suspected of tampering with data on a floppy disk seized as evidence to increase the chances of convicting a health ministry bureaucrat who was accused of taking part in an alleged postal fee fraud.
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