Japan diplomat held over arson, embezzlement in Congo

TOKYO (AFP) - A diplomat in charge of accounting at the Japanese embassy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was being quizzed Tuesday after a suspicious fire at the mission where US$260,000 ($326,000) has gone missing.

Mr Shinya Yamada, 30, the third secretary at the Japanese embassy in Kinshasa, was arrested in Tokyo over allegations he set the blaze in June, police and reports said.

"It is extremely regrettable an official of the Foreign Ministry was arrested and that serious damage, including the loss of public funds, was inflicted," said Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, adding an apology "to the people of Japan".

Mr Yamada was a regular at local casinos in Kinshasa and frequently borrowed money from colleagues, the Nikkan Sports tabloid said.

Police believe he embezzled embassy money to fuel his gambling habit before dumping petrol in his office and setting it ablaze in a bid to destroy evidence, reports said.

Records of those entering and exiting the embassy building showed Mr Yamada was the last person to leave on June 20, the day of the fire, the reports said.