Foreign service officials arrested on suspicion of abuse of funds

The Tokyo District Prosecutor's Office arrested two Foreign Ministry officials on May 14 on suspicion of using tax money earmarked for assistance projects to Russia to cover expenses of a trip to Israel.

One is Sato Masaru, a diplomat and expert on Russian affairs, and the other Maejima Akira, former staff member of the Foreign Ministry's section in charge of assistance to Russia.

The two are suspected of breach of trust by having the Foreign Ministry-affiliated "assistance committee" for Russia expend 33,500,000 yen (about 270,000 dollars) on preparations for, and ministry officials' participation in an international conference held in Tel Aviv, Israel in 2000 to discuss Russian diplomacy.

For many years, Sato worked closely with Dietmember Suzuki Muneo, who is under suspicion of wrongdoing in connection with foreign assistance.

"This indicates that suspicions about Mr. Suzuki Muneo are further deepening," said Ichida Tadayoshi, Japanese Communist Party Secretariat head, on the same day. He also emphasized the need to subpoena Suzuki to appear before the Diet to testify as sworn witness, and demanded that the Foreign Ministry accept responsibility for the wrong doing.

Ichida also said that the task now is for the Diet to examine political and moral responsibility concerning this question. (end)