Photo/IllutrationReporters gather in front of the campus of Tokyo Medical University on July 4. (Reina Kitamura)

Tokyo Medical University’s top official directly approached arrested education ministry bureaucrat Futoshi Sano about securing a government subsidy reserved for a select group of private universities, according to sources.

Masahiko Usui, chairman of the Board of Regents of Tokyo Medical University, is said to have made the request in May 2017 to Sano, 58, who was director-general of the minister's secretariat at the time, that his institution be chosen for the program.

Usui, 77, has admitted to making the request, and investigators of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office are continuing to question him, although he has not been detained.

Sano was arrested on July 4 on suspicion of taking a bribe in exchange for accepting the request made by university officials. The bribe was in the form of bumping up Sano’s child’s entrance exam score to ensure a place at Tokyo Medical University.

The sources said the decision to approach Sano and to allow his child to enter the university was made by Usui, along with university President Mamoru Suzuki, 69, and a small number of top university officials who had the authority to influence who was admitted.

Usui graduated from Tokyo Medical University in 1966 and served as a university professor as well as head of the university hospital. He became chairman of the Board of Regents in July 2013.

According to university officials, the private university subsidy the institution was interested in began in fiscal 2016. However, Tokyo Medical University was not chosen to receive the subsidy in the first year, forcing it to submit another application the following year. It was one of 60 private universities out of a total of 188 submissions that were selected.

Tokyo Medical University has so far received 35 million yen ($320,000) in subsidies under the program.

According to sources, the deadline for submitting applications was June 2017, a month after Usui made the request to Sano. As director-general of the minister's secretariat, Sano held wide authority over the ministry's budget and personnel matters.

However, in July 2017, Sano was transferred to the Science and Technology Policy Bureau where he served as director-general. He was removed from that post on July 4 after his arrest.

The final decision on which private universities were chosen for the subsidy program was made in November 2017, four months after Sano's transfer.