Japanese naval officer admits spying for Russia


TOKYO, AP

A former Japanese naval officer accused of leaking defense secrets to a Russian military attache pleaded guilty on Monday.

Shigehiro Hagisaki, 38, formerly a lieutenant commander with the Maritime Self-Defense Force, made the plea at the Tokyo District Court, said a court spokesman speaking on condition of anonymity.

Hagisaki is charged with violating Article 59 of the Self-Defense Forces Act, which prohibits members of Japan’s military from “divulging secrets known in the line of duty.”

Police say they arrested Hagisaki on Sept. 8 at a Tokyo restaurant after he handed to Capt. Victor Bogatenkov copies of a classified training manual used by senior MSDF officers and papers regarding plans for military communications systems. Bogatenkov, 44, was an official at the Russian Embassy in Tokyo.

Hagisaki is also suspected of handing over other defense secrets — including information about U.S. naval units in Japan — to Bogatenkov on several occasions starting in September 1999.

Beginning in March of this year, Hagisaki reportedly received about 100,000 yen (US$900) each time he met with the Russian attache, Kyodo News agency said, citing unidentified government investigators. The report did not say if he received money before March.

Citing diplomatic immunity, Bogatenkov hastily left Japan one day after Hagisaki’s arrest in September and has refused to speak to Japanese prosecutors.

Hagisaki, who worked as researcher at Japan’s National Institute for Defense Studies until his arrest, was stripped of his military commission in October.

In his first court appearance on Monday, he apologized to the Japanese people for his actions, Kyodo said.

The crime of which he is accused carries a surprisingly light penalty in Japan.

If found guilty of leaking classified information, the ex- naval officer faces up to one year in prison or a fine of 30,000 yen (US$270).

Japanese law does not distinguish between selling military secrets and otherwise divulging them.

An SDF spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Monday that the agency was considering stiffening that penalty, but added that no decision has been made yet.