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Senior education ministry official arrested on bribery suspicion, second such bureaucrat

Kazuaki Kawabata (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- A senior official of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology was arrested on July 26 on suspicion of accepting some 1.4 million yen worth of bribes from a former board member of a consulting company in the form of wining and dining, in return for giving the firm preferential treatment, public prosecutors said.

The arrest of Kazuaki Kawabata, 57, director-general for international affairs, by the special investigation department of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, came on the heels of the indictment on July 24 of another senior education ministry official, Futoshi Sano, 59, in another bribery scandal. In both of the cases, the former consulting company executive, Koji Taniguchi, 47, was allegedly involved. Two days before his arrest on July 26 for allegedly bribing Kawabata, Taniguchi was also indicted on charges of helping to bribe Sano.

According to prosecution source, Kawabata was allegedly wined and dined by Taniguchi, mainly at restaurants in Tokyo, between August 2015 and March 2017, when the bureaucrat was on loan to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to serve as one of its board members. Prosecutors suspect Kawabata was aware that Taniguchi had entertained him because the consulting company wanted his favor in its business activities. People close to the case say Taniguchi denied the allegations.

According to senior education ministry officials, Kawabata developed close relations with Taniguchi while he was the head of the ministry's Management and Coordination Division. He was succeeded in the position by Sano, and Kawabata apparently introduced people he had come to know while in that position, to the successor.

Sano, former head of the ministry's Science and Technology Policy Bureau, is now under indictment on charges of accepting bribes from Tokyo Medical University. The medical school allegedly gave his son backdoor admission in return for helping the school win a ministry grant.

Kawabata joined the Science and Technology Agency, which was later absorbed by the education ministry, in 1984. After serving as head of the Management and Coordination Division at the minister's secretariat, he served at JAXA from April 2015 to March 2017. He was appointed to his current post in April 2017.

(Japanese original by Kenji Tatsumi, Kazuhiro Toyama and Suyon Kimu, Tokyo City News Department)

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