National / Crime & Legal

Japanese prosecutors raid JAXA facilities in connection with second education ministry bribes case

Kyodo

Prosecutors on Friday raided locations linked to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) after arresting a senior education ministry official earlier on a bribery charge.

The graft scandal is the second to hit the education ministry in a month.

Kazuaki Kawabata, the ministry’s former director-general for international affairs, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of taking bribes in the form of wining and dining to a former consultancy executive in return for a favor.

Prosecutors suspect the former executive, Koji Taniguchi, 47 — who has already been arrested and indicted for alleged complicity in another bribery scandal involving a different senior education official — plied Kawabata with ¥1.4 million worth of meals and drinks between 2015 and 2017.

Kawabata, 57, was on loan to JAXA at the time and was in a position to evaluate its business contracts. He allegedly helped Taniguchi invite astronaut Satoshi Furukawa to an event at Tokyo Medical University in November 2016, among other favors, according to sources close to the matter.

Furukawa was allegedly asked by the former chairman of the university’s board of regents, Masahiko Usui, about whether the astronaut could take part in the event, they said.

Taniguchi bribed Kawabata by wining and dining him more than 10 times, sources said, adding that both deny the allegations.

Other sources said the education bureaucrat is also suspected of receiving taxi vouchers from the consultancy executive.

Earlier in the month, education ministry bureaucrat Futoshi Sano, 59, and the former official at Tokyo Medical University were indicted for bribery.

Sano, former director-general of the science and technology bureau, allegedly helped the university get selected for the ministry’s funding program in return for securing his son’s enrollment at the school.

Taniguchi is suspected of bringing Sano and Usui together.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is preparing to set up a third-party committee to investigate the bribery allegations involving Sano, but the minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, said the plan will be postponed in light of Kawabata’s arrest.