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School operator probes action against ex-chairwoman over missing 2.1 bil. yen

OSAKA -- A school operator is preparing to file a criminal complaint against several parties including its former chairwoman over a 2.1 billion yen deposit for a land sale whose whereabouts has become unknown.

A real estate firm initially paid the deposit to school operator Meijo Gakuin, based in the Osaka Prefecture town of Kumatori, for high school land that Meijo Gakuin was selling. The same amount was later transferred to a consulting firm run by an acquaintance of the former chairwoman of Meijo Gakuin via a real estate mediation firm. After this, the amount was reportedly transferred into an account designated by the former chairwoman.

The 61-year-old former chairwoman had resigned from Meijo Gakuin over a separate case in which she allegedly misappropriated 100 million yen to acquire cryptocurrency. The 100 million yen came from the operating funds for Osaka University of Tourism, which is operated by Meijo Gakuin and based in the same western Japan town.

According to internal documents and other sources, the operator of Meijo Gakuin High School in Osaka's Abeno Ward had planned to rebuild the school building by selling off about half of the school's land.

The school operator signed a contract with a real estate company in Osaka's Chuo Ward on July 6, 2017 to sell off some 7,300 square meters of land for approximately 3.2 billion yen. Later that day, the operator entrusted a deposit of 2.1 billion yen to real estate mediation firm Sun Kikaku in the city of Suita, which mediated the land transaction.

Sources close to the organizations told the Mainichi Shimbun that on the same day, Sun Kikaku transferred the money to a bank account owned by the consulting firm headed by the acquaintance of the ex-chairwoman. The firm is based in the western Japan city of Okayama, though the corporate headquarters are registered in Tokyo.

The head of the consulting firm acknowledged that the deposit was sent to the firm's bank account, and was then transferred to a separate account at the former chairwoman's behest. The consulting firm's head explained that the two came to know each other through work. The head said the firm had taken on an assignment from school operator Meijo Gakuin before, which is why it accepted the former chairwoman's request to use its account this time.

However, while acknowledging that the money was transferred into another account, the head of the consulting firm said they "don't remember" specifically where the funds went.

The contract between the school operator and Sun Kikaku prohibits diversion of funds. The 2.1 billion yen deposit was supposed to cover expenses such as rebuilding the school building, and Sun Kikaku is obliged to submit a balance statement to the school operator at the year-end settling of accounts -- but has never done so.

Because the whereabouts of the 2.1 billion yen has become unknown, the reconstruction plans have been set back, and construction is currently suspended.

The president of Sun Kikaku told the Mainichi, "Our company has the 2.1 billion yen (deposit). We can submit a balance statement at any time," but refused to talk about the money transfer to the consulting firm. The former chairwoman has not accepted the Mainichi's request for an interview.

(Japanese original by Masayuki Takashima, Shiho Matsumoto, Takumi Fujikawa and Sakae Kato, Osaka City News Department)

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