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Senior education ministry official indicted on bribery charges

Kazuaki Kawabata (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The special investigation unit of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on Aug. 15 indicted Kazuaki Kawabata, 57, former director-general for international affairs at the education ministry, on charges of accepting bribes. Koji Taniguchi, 47, a former executive at a medical consultancy, was also indicted as the alleged briber.

    According to people familiar with the investigation, Kawabata has largely admitted to the charges, while Taniguchi apparently denies he committed any wrongdoing.

    Kawabata was arrested on July 26 on suspicion of accepting bribes in the form of wining and dining by Taniguchi totaling some 1.4 million yen from August 2015 through March 2017 when the bureaucrat was on loan to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) as a board member. Taniguchi allegedly treated Kawabata hoping to receive favorable treatment for his company.

    According to people knowledgeable about the relationship between the two, Kawabata repeatedly dined with Taniguchi and received coupons to pay for taxi fares. Tokyo prosecutors at the special investigation unit have obtained a number of recordings of their meetings, and appear to consider the data as evidence proving the wining and dining charges.

    In return for the treats, Kawabata allegedly made arrangements so that an astronaut would attend a November 2016 ceremony to commemorate the centennial of Tokyo Medical University. The bureaucrat, as a JAXA director, was responsible for selecting occasions to send astronauts.

    Tokyo Medical University is at the center of another bribery scandal involving the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Futoshi Sano, 59, former director-general of the ministry's Science and Technology Policy Bureau, allegedly received bribes in the form of his son's backdoor admission to the medical school. Former Tokyo Medical University Board of Regents Chairman Masahiko Usui, 77, and former President Mamoru Suzuki, 69, also face trial over that bribery case.

    (Japanese original by Kenji Tatsumi, Kazuhiro Toyama and Kim Suyeong, Tokyo City News Department)

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