Nihon University management in question after chairman’s arrest

The money-related scandal involving the management of one of Japan’s largest universities is nothing short of appalling. It is urgent to identify organizational problems and rebuild the system.

Nihon University Chairman Hidetoshi Tanaka was arrested by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on suspicion of violating the Income Tax Law. He allegedly evaded ¥53 million in taxes by failing to report cash he received from the former chairman of a medical corporation, who has been indicted on breach of trust charges in connection with the university’s affiliated hospital, and others.

Tanaka has reportedly denied to investigators that he received the cash. However, a special investigation unit has confirmed that the chairman has over ¥100 million in cash at his home, and there are allegations that he received large kickbacks from companies and other sources as well.

Prosecutors must thoroughly determine for what purpose the cash was given to the chairman.

In the underlying breach of trust case, a former member of the university’s board has been indicted on charges of causing the university to incur about ¥420 million in losses in connection with the hospital’s rebuilding plan and the procurement of medical equipment.

The former board member served as an executive of Nihon University Enterprise Co., an affiliate company to the university that was the setting for the breach of trust case. When opposition arose to the hospital’s procurement of the medical equipment, it was rebuffed by the former board member who said, “We got the OK from the chairman.”

Tanaka has reigned over the university for 13 years, and the former board member was seen as his closest ally. It raises the question as to whether the two used the university as if it was their private property.

Nihon University has an enrollment of about 70,000 students, and more than 1 million alumni. Many must be furious that such a scandal has occurred at their alma mater.

Even so, Tanaka has never publicly offered any explanation. This is entirely irresponsible for someone in the top management post.

The university’s handling of the scandal has also been problematic. Despite the financial harm caused by the former board member and another suspect in the breach of trust case, it announced it was still pending on whether it would file a criminal complaint.

The university has not held a press conference to provide an explanation. Its actions can be interpreted as an attempt to cover up for one of its own.

Nihon University has many affiliated high schools and junior high schools. With the entrance examination season just around the corner, no doubt there is concern among parents and children.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has instructed the university to thoroughly investigate the matter and ensure accountability. This is the proper course of action.

Nihon University received about ¥9 billion in government subsidies for private schools in the 2020 academic year, as well as preferential tax treatment. As an educational institution of a highly public nature, the university must realize that public distrust cannot be dispelled unless it achieves transparency in its organization and management.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Nov. 30, 2021.