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Deputy mayor busted for raiding his village coffers

Date Posted: 2007-06-21

Higashi Village officials are scratching their heads, trying to figure out exactly how the deputy mayor could plunder at least ¥10 million from its bank accounts without anyone noticing.

The man, Katsumasa Higa, is now charged with theft, and Nago City Police say the total skimmed may be considerably higher—perhaps as much as ¥365 million—by the time the investigation is complete. Higa resigned his post last year, but officials say the misappropriations began as early as 2001, when he was the Higashi Village Treasurer. He’s accused of taking first ¥3 million, then ¥7 million, a total of ¥10 million in 2001 alone.

Higa reportedly opened a bank account in his own name, then moved funds from the Village account to his. As treasurer, Higa possessed the Village stamp, and its bankbooks too.

Officials say Higa replaced ¥15 million of embezzled funds used in building his home, but the other money isn’t accounted for, yet. Higa began working in the Village office in 1969, then moved up to the treasurer position, where he had control of the Village budget and all its money. He became deputy mayor in 2003.

Mayor Shigemae Miyagi was surprised at Higa’s illicit actions. “I worked with him for 12 years, and I didn’t realize what he was doing,” said Miyagi. “I feel very sorry for every resident, and I promise to find out the whole truth.”

The funds shortages were uncovered in February, two months before Higa ran for the village mayoral position.

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