Photo/IllutrationEducation minister Yoshimasa Hayashi meets with reporters on July 4 after a bureau director-general was arrested on suspicion of accepting a bribe. (Takuya Isayama)

  • Photo/Illustraion

A high-ranking education ministry official was arrested July 4 on suspicion of accepting the bribe of a place for his child at Tokyo Medical University in exchange for granting favors to the prestigious school.

Futoshi Sano, 58, has since been removed from his post as director-general of the Science and Technology Policy Bureau and assigned to the minister's secretariat.

Education minister Yoshimasa Hayashi apologized over the arrest of a serving ministry official and promised to cooperate fully with the investigation when he met with reporters on July 4 after the news broke.

According to prosecutors, Sano was asked in May 2017 for Tokyo Medical University to be chosen as a recipient of a ministry assistance program directed at private universities. Sano was director-general of the minister's secretariat at the time.

The prosecutors suspect that Sano agreed to the request while aware that a university official would engineer a favorable score in the entrance exam taken this past February by Sano's child.

Investigators with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office also arrested Koji Taniguchi, 47, a company executive, on suspicion of aiding in the bribe exchange. Sources said Taniguchi acted as an intermediary between Sano and an official with Tokyo Medical University.

The prosecutors did not reveal whether the two men have made any statement related to their guilt or innocence.

Investigative sources said the Tokyo Medical University official who made the request to Sano has not been arrested because of the person's advanced age and admission to giving the bribe. However, an investigation into the individual's actions will continue.

Although no money changed hands, prosecutors defined the highly prized place at the university given to Sano's child as a form of bribe.

Prosecutors have not clarified if Sano actually lobbied for Tokyo Medical University’s selection as a recipient of the support program.

The university was one of 60 private universities chosen in fiscal 2017 for the support program out of 188 that applied. Subsidies of up to 150 million yen ($1.4 million) are given to recipients over the five years of the program.

University officials said 3,535 individuals sat for the regular entrance exam for the medical faculty in February, and only 214 were accepted.

The university issued a statement acknowledging the investigation.