Greenpeace activists arrested over whale meat scandal to appear in Court on Sunday: Prime Minster of Japan petitioned for their immediate release
Auckland, New Zealand — Following an extraordinary and unnecessary police operation to arrest two Greenpeace Japan activists involved in exposing a scandalous whale meat embezzlement ring operating within the Japanese whaling fleet, a court hearing will be held on Sunday June 22nd in Aomori to decide their fate. Greenpeace has engaged its international pool of online activists to petition the Japanese Prime Minster to end this embarrassing charade and free the innocent activists. The activists, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, provided written testimony to the police in Aomori three weeks ago and offered to make themselves available for further questioning at the police's convenience. Despite this, yesterday 40 police raided the offices of Greenpeace in Japan, seizing computers, telephones and documents. At the same time Sato and Suzuki were arrested and transferred to Aomori police station where they are being held. A simple phone call would have been sufficient.
"This is not a police investigation, it is intimidation," said Jun Hoshikawa, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan. "Yet again taxpayers must be asking themselves why their money is being wasted, this time in an attempt to make an example out peaceful protestors as the International Whaling Commission meets in Chile and ahead of the G8 Summit to be held in Japan next month."
Greenpeace has launched an international on-line petition directed at Japan's Prime Minster, Fukuda, appealing for him to intervene to end this heavy handed charade and order the immediate release innocent activists. They have committed no crime, other than to challenge powerful forces within the whaling industry and government and draw attention to the waste of hundreds of millions of taxpayers Yen subsidizing a corrupt operation in the Southern Ocean Whaling Sanctuary.
Meanwhile, Greenpeace has now been advised by the Tokyo District Prosecutor Office that it has been unable to find evidence of the embezzlement and that the investigation will end today.
"Clearly this has been a difficult investigation for the Prosecutor's Office when the level of corruption runs so deep in the whaling industry," said Hoshikawa. "However, key questions remain unanswered -if Kyodo Senpaku was legally giving out whale meat to the crew then why did they change their story several times in almost as many days and why did the crew falsify the documents when posting the meat home, claiming that the boxes contained cardboard when in fact they where stuffed full of prime whale meat cuts worth thousands of dollars?"
The meat from the annual so-called scientific hunt in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is not officially made available to the market, nor the price set, until after the International Whaling Commission meeting each year, two and a half months after the fleet's return to Japan.
The whaling programme costs the Japanese taxpayer 500 million yen per year (around 4.7 million US dollars), despite being internationally condemned. Last year the ICR was unable to repay a 1 billion yen tax subsidy from the government.
Notes to Editor
In May, a four-month undercover investigation by Greenpeace in Japan revealed evidence of an embezzlement ring involving crew members on board the Nisshin Maru - the fleets factory ship onboard which the whales killed in the name of science are chopped and boxed for market. It provided evidence that crew were openly taking the best cuts of whale meat and smuggling them ashore disguised as personal luggage and then passing it on to the traders for illegal sale.
Greenpeace obtained one of the boxes, for which the paper work had been falsified claiming the contents as "cardboard" but it in fact contained 23.5 kgs of prime cut whale meat worth up to US$3,000. In total 47 suspicious boxes were identified by Greenpeace. That box was presented as evidence to the Tokyo Public Prosecutors Office on May 8.
Informers told Greenpeace that senior crew and officials from Kyodo Senpaku - the company operating the fleet and the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) were turning a blind eye to the theft, allowing it to continue for decades.
The "Stolen Japanese Whale Meat Scandal" dossier is available to download in English and Japanese at:
peaceful actions of the crew of the Greenpeace ship,
Esperanza, in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary earlier
this year stopped the entire whaling operation for more than
two weeks. The factory ship, Nisshin Maru returned to port
with half the planned quota of minke whales and no
endangered fin whales. The whalers were forced to admit that
previous claims that fin whale numbers were increasing was
not proved by the expedition -in which so few fin whales
were seen they were unable to catch