National / Crime & Legal

Court reduces sum of taxpayer money assembly members must repay for Australia trip

Kyodo

A high court Thursday drastically reduced the amount a lower court had ordered five city assembly members to repay following accusations that taxpayer money was wasted on sightseeing in Australia.

The Tokyo High Court ordered Kunio Jinbo, the mayor of Toda in Saitama Prefecture, to make five assembly members return a total of ¥225,000 ($2,100) — less than one tenth of the ¥2.4 million demanded in an earlier district court ruling — while acknowledging some parts of their visit were legal.

Presiding Judge Tetsuhiko Kai said the assembly members’ visits to areas other than Liverpool were “illegal” and “deviated from the purpose” of deepening ties between Toda and Liverpool. The significantly lowered reimbursement reflected airfares, which accounted for a large portion of the total fee.

The assembly members made a six-day trip to Australia in October 2013, during which they stayed only one day in Liverpool, and spent three days in other Sydney areas and tourist spots, according to the ruling.

In May last year the Saitama District Court had ordered the five to refund all travel expenses, as sought by a civic group. But the mayor appealed the ruling, arguing that he could not accept a decision that considered the entirety of the trip, including the visit to Liverpool, illegal.

At a news conference following the high court ruling, a civic group representative said the decision is “unjust” because it “accepted the city government’s claim without question.”