TOKYO — Two senior Japanese prosecutors have been arrested on suspicion of covering up alleged evidence-tampering, in a case that has sparked widespread outrage in the law-abiding country. Hiromichi Otsubo, 57, and Motoaki Saga, 49, were arrested late Friday in connection with their alleged covering up of data tampering by their colleague and top prosecutor Tsunehiko Maeda, 43.
In a country where state prosecutors enjoy much prestige and boast a conviction rate of more than 99 percent — a ratio that has drawn concern from civil rights activists — the case has set off alarm bells. Maeda, who was arrested last month, allegedly changed the date of a recording on a floppy disk that was seized from a bureaucrat’s home as evidence to support his case. The defendant, Atsuko Muraki, 54, was accused of taking part in a scam allowing mass mail companies to abuse postal discounts reserved for disabled people — but a court acquitted her and she was given her job back. Maeda told investigators that he had reported to his bosses, Otsubo and Saga, that he intentionally altered the data stored on the floppy disk, but the two senior prosecutors allegedly covered it up, Kyodo News said. Otsubo and Saga have denied the allegations and said they were told by Maeda he mistakenly altered the data, Kyodo said. Japanese prosecutors, who have police-style investigative powers, have often been the legal spearhead against white collar crime and have in the past arrested top politicians, state bureaucrats and business figures. The Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office Saturday raided homes and offices of the two senior prosecutors, Kyodo said. A senior government official said early Saturday that the scandal is so grave that the head of the Public Prosecutors’ Office will inevitably have to take responsibility over the arrests, Jiji Press said.