Tokyo: Two former Japanese Industry Ministry bureaucrats were found guilty of defrauding the state of about 15.5 million yen ($136,000) in benefits that were intended to help businesses hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Tokyo District Court’s verdict revealed on Tuesday.
The Tokyo District Court, saying that they had “betrayed the public’s trust,” handed down a jail term of 30 months to Makoto Sakurai, 29, while Yutaro Arai, 28, was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for four years, reports Xinhua news agency.
Presiding Judge Ryuta Asaka rapped the two in handing down the ruling, saying they “deserve strong criticism for dragging down a key policy to support pandemic-hit small businesses”.
According to the ruling, the two cheated 11.5 million yen in office rent subsidies for the two dummy firms they had established.
They also defrauded the ministry of 4 million yen in benefits.
The pair has admitted to the charges.
Prosecutors said Sakurai was the main culprit of the fraud, but his defense lawyers argued that Arai also benefitted from it and that Sakurai is “being made overtly responsible”.
However, Arai’s defense lawyers said he could not refuse Sakurai’s instructions and did not actively participate in the crime.
Asaka determined that Sakurai was the protagonist and that Arai’s criminal responsibility was smaller, saying, “without Sakurai, Arai would not have gotten involved”.
The Ministry’s Small and Medium Enterprise Agency is responsible for subsidy and benefit programs to help struggling sole proprietors and small businesses whose sales have fallen due to the pandemic.
Sakurai worked at the Ministry’s Industrial Finance Division and Arai at its Corporate System Division.
They never worked for the agency.