National / Crime & Legal

Welfare ministry official accused of taking bribes may have received more

Kyodo

A welfare ministry official who was arrested on suspicion of accepting a ¥1 million ($8,360) bribe in connection with the My Number social security and tax number system may have accepted several million yen more from the same person, investigative sources said Wednesday.

Kazuyuki Nakayasu, 45, with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, was arrested Tuesday for allegedly taking the cash bribe from a former executive of a Tokyo-based information technology company in November 2011 for assisting the firm in winning two computer system development contracts worth a total of ¥210 million for the introduction of the My Number system.

The suspect has admitted to the bribery charge of ¥1 million, saying, “I demanded it,” a police official said.

The money was apparently used to cover his living expenses and credit card payments, according to the police.

He became acquainted with the executive and other company officials around 2006 through work and thereafter allegedly received money on multiple occasions totaling several million yen, not including the ¥1 million bribe for which he was arrested, the sources said.

Nakayasu is also alleged to have been wined and dined by company officials.

The police raided the ministry headquarters in Tokyo on Wednesday morning to collect evidence and documentation to back up the bribery allegation.

The police sent Nakayasu to the prosecutors Wednesday morning.

According to the ministry, Nakayasu had long worked on building an information system for Japan’s social security system, having expertise in medical and IT areas.

At the health ministry, Nakayasu developed a reputation of being well-versed in information and technology, according to his colleagues at the ministry.

He served as honorary associate professor at three national universities — Hokkaido University, Tohoku University and Akita University Hospital — and frequently lectured and published academic papers on medical information technology. He also had a strong network of associates outside the ministry.

The Hyogo native joined the ministry in April 1991, working at a state-run rehabilitation center. He later transferred to the ministry’s division in charge of the national social security program, where he was also involved in developing a system in connection with the My Number project.

“He had expertise in the field he was in charge of and everybody found him reliable,” said a ministry official who was once Nakayasu’s superior.

Another ministry official who used to work with him at the health policy bureau said he had “deep” knowledge in the field of medical information policy.

A staffer at the Japan Association for Medical Informatics, where Nakayasu served as a trustee, recalled his “dedicated pursuit” in trying to address the challenges in how medical institutions should share the medical records of patients.

Although some at the health ministry described him as “difficult” and “too assertive,” the staffer said Nakatani was anything but a typical bureaucrat: “He was a very frank and likable fellow.”

About five years ago, Nakayasu published a paper on how to balance privacy protection and public interest in an official journal of the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. In it, he supported a project pushed by the ministry at the time to integrate information related to pension and health insurance into a single IC card.

Meanwhile, regarding controversies over the resident registration system and surveillance cameras, Nakayasu maintained a more cautious attitude.

“Sometimes those in absolute power commit wrongdoings,” he wrote in the paper, adding, “there is nothing we can do about wrongdoers who are well aware of the penalties but commit crimes anyway.”

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