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Government accuses Kunigami Village of major subsidy fraud

Date Posted: 2008-03-21

Kunigami Village, home to an endangered bird species in northern Okinawa, may see some of its political leaders become extinct if the government wins its case of fraud against it.

The peaceful village, home to the Yambarukuina, an endangered species, is under fire from the government for making false statements and committing forgery to obtain ¥55,660,000 in subsidies. The government wants the money returned, but Kunigami Village says they don’t have any money. Kousaku Uehara says “We don’t think the government’s statement is a correct amount.” The Village Mayor says “according to our account, the amount is ¥20 million, and we’ll return this much.

Government officials say the village is guilty of filing 16 construction projects under a northern promotion program, “but only five places of construction were correct.” The government says it identified the errors several years ago, and asked the village to return ¥13 million in erroneous subsidies by April 2006. The village failed to comply, officials say, leading to a new total due of ¥66 million with inclusion of interest calculated at 10.95%. Still, the government says, it is only asking for return of ¥55.660 million.

Kunigami Village is blaming construction companies for the errors, insisting they ask the companies to file their paperwork. “We lost the paperwork” is the excuse the companies give Kunigami Village. Bid rigging has been a problem with construction companies, leading to arrests by Okinawa Prefecture Police last year. It was the police investigation that turned up many of the new forgeries.

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