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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Moriya enters guilty plea

Ex-vice defense chief admits role in bribes-for-contracts schemes


Staff writer

Former Vice Defense Minister Takemasa Moriya pleaded guilty Monday to charges of bribery and perjury and acknowledged taking part in bribes-for-contracts schemes with executives of defense equipment traders between 2003 and 2007.

Although Moriya contested the sum of bribes put forward by prosecutors, he told the Tokyo District Court during his first trial session that he "committed a crime despite being at the top position of the Defense Ministry."

"I deeply apologize from my heart," Moriya, 63, said. The disgraced bureaucrat, who allegedly received about ¥12.5 million in kickbacks from the Tokyo-based firms Yamada Corp. and Nihon Mirise Corp., is charged with rewarding the companies with special favors, including contracts for procuring General Electric engines for the Air Self-Defense Force's next-generation CX aircraft.

Three former executives from Yamada — Motonobu Miyazaki, 69, Osamu Akiyama, 70, and Tomonari Imaji, 57 — also pleaded guilty Monday to giving bribes to Moriya and embezzlement, as well as other related charges involving the Defense Ministry scandal.

Moriya, dressed in a dark navy suit and tie, bowed to presiding Judge Minoru Uemura upon entering the court. He sat impassively as the prosecutors read out their opening statements.

The prosecutors alleged Moriya, who joined the Defense Agency in 1971 and was referred to as "the Emperor" after becoming vice defense minister in 2003, "had the purpose of providing special favors" regarding defense equipment procurement when he received the bribes.

According to their statements, Moriya and his wife were regularly wined and dined by the traders, including more than 100 paid rounds of golf, golfing trips to Hokkaido and Fukuoka, and cash payments. The entertainment, which continued until last April, is a violation of the Defense Ministry's ethics code.

Moriya often registered at golf courses under false names to avoid leaving any evidence he had been there, the prosecutors said.

While Moriya acknowledged the bribery, he and his lawyers stated in court Monday that Miyazaki was a member of some of the golf courses they played at, which entitled Moriya to play free of charge. Because a fee was not required from Moriya, they argued that some of the prosecutors' alleged bribery figures were exaggerated and did not represent the true amount.

However, the prosecutors also alleged that in addition to free golf games, Miyazaki provided approximately ¥1.5 million to Moriya's daughter, who was studying in the United States.

In return, Moriya gave special favors to Miyazaki's firms, first Yamada and later Nihon Mirise, on eight occasions.

These included projects related to development of the latest Air Self-Defense Force destroyers and special protective vehicles against chemical weapons.

The bureaucrat was also charged with lying under oath during sworn Diet testimony in which he denied giving favorable treatment to the defense equipment traders.

He falsely stated to a special House of Representatives committee last October and November that he had paid a portion of the golf rounds, and that his daughter's expenses in the U.S. were provided by himself.

Moriya was eventually arrested in November 2007. His wife was also arrested as a suspected accomplice but was not indicted because she remained a subordinate in the bribery plot.

Moriya's court appearance on Monday was the first time he has been seen in public since January, when he was freed on ¥15 million bail.

He was known for his strong connections with Liberal Democratic Party politicians, and contributed to having the Defense Agency upgraded to ministry status in 2007 while overseeing the defense bureaucracy.

He resigned from his post last August amid a dispute with then Defense Minister Yuriko Koike.



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