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Clerk at Tokyo public prosecutors office admits to altering documents but not arson

The building where the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is housed is seen in this file photo. (Mainichi/Kim Suyeong)

TOKYO -- Altered documents related to investigations were found in the charred remains of a fire that occurred in an office at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office in the capital's Chiyoda Ward this August, sources close to the case told the Mainichi Shimbun.

    A clerk at the prosecutors office, who confessed to altering the documents in an internal probe, was given a severe reprimand based on bylaws. There was an investigation into the possibility of arson, but a senior prosecutorial official has denied the possibility that it was a "man-induced" fire.

    Two fires broke out in Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office rooms this summer -- one at around 11 p.m. on July 16, and the other at around 3:40 p.m. on Aug. 12. The origin of the first fire was a room on the 10th floor where multiple clerks worked together, and computers and outlet strips had burned. Sprinklers were activated and a total of eight floors suffered water and other damage.

    The second fire broke out in the office of a prosecutor on the ninth floor, and while it was put out within around 10 minutes, documents were burned. Both times, firefighters were summoned to the scene.

    According to those close to the case, the clerk who was reprimanded had originally been working in the room on the 10th floor, but around the time of the fire in July, there was a personnel reshuffle that placed the clerk in the office of the prosecutor on the ninth floor where the August fire took place, as an attending clerk. Both fires had started near electric power sources that had electrical cords connected to them, and district prosecutors determined that there was a high probability that the fires were caused by problems with the electrical system.

    The second fire originated with an outlet strip, and investigative documents that the clerk had compiled were found in an envelope, burned nearby along with clips. When district prosecutors looked into the remnants of the paperwork, the documents were in part different from what the original format would have been. The clerk admitted to altering the paperwork, but denied any connection to the fires. The alterations made to the documents were not significant enough to influence the contents of the investigations, and the clerk explained that he made the alterations in an effort to carry out their job more efficiently.

    The clerk was transferred to a different department in October. The aforementioned senior prosecutorial official said, "Based on an investigation by the fire department, we determined that there was no possibility that either of the fires was the result of arson."

    (Japanese original by Kazuya Shimura, Yujiro Futamura, Ai Kunimoto and Tomonori Matsuo, Tokyo City News Department)

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