Greenpeace Japan whale campaign coordinator Junichi Sato, with the whale meat that was stolen from Japanese taxpayers, and which he provided as evidence to the government -- only to be arrested.
The box of the most expensive cuts of whale meat had been
illicitly removed by crew of the Nisshin Maru, the whaling factory
ship, following this year's Southern Ocean whale hunt. Its contents
were marked "cardboard" and it was shipped to a private address.
Tracked by our investigators, it was intercepted and turned over to
the Public Prosecutor in Tokyo, as evidence of wide-scale
corruption at the heart of the whaling operation in the Southern
Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
We requested an investigation into the scandal, and the Public
Prosecutor agreed that there was sufficient evidence of
wrongdoing. In light of evidence that the operators of the
whaling operation were aware of the scandal and did nothing, we
asked that the investigation not focus on crew, but on the
bureaucrats who run the whaling programme at public expense.
UPDATE 21 June 2008
The Tokyo District Prosecutor Office announced that it has been
unable to find evidence of the embezzlement and that the
investigation into crew and whaling officials has been dropped.
Clearly this has been a difficult investigation for the
Prosecutor's Office when the level of corruption runs so deep in
the whaling industry, an industry backed by powerful forces within
the government. However, some questions remain unanswered:
- If Kyodo Senpaku, the company that operates the whaling ships,
was legally giving out whale meat to the crew then why did they
change their story three times in almost as many days?
- Why did the crew lie about the contents of the boxes containing
the meat, claiming that they contained cardboard when in fact they
were stuffed full of prime whale meat cuts worth tens of thousands
- And why, before the scandal was exposed, did an official of the
Japanese Fisheries agency claim that whale meat was never given to
Read the full dossier of evidence, and decide for
UPDATE 22 June 2008 At a hearing this morning, the "Tokyo
Two" have been ordered held another ten days without charge. We are
appealing that decision tomorrow. In the meantime, our lawyer
believes that the number of people who have written demanding their
release -- nearly 50,000 at this writing -- could help their case
UPDATE 23 June 2008 Our appeal has been rejected, and
Junichi and Toru have been ordered to spend a further 9 days in
jail without charge. Under Japanese law, they can be held for up to
23 days without charge. More than 100,000 people have now taken our
global cyberaction demanding their release.
UPDATE 27 June 2008 Greenpeace has begun a series of
actions at Japanese embassies around the world protesting the
detention of Junichi and Toru. 170,000 people have now written to
demand their relase. Please, if you have not already done so, take
action and encourage others to do so as well: http://www.greenpeace.org/tokyo-two
UPDATE July 1, 2008:
The court has ruled Junichi and Toru will spend the maximum time
in custody without charge permissible under Japanese law - 23
In a message to supporters, sent via their lawyers, Junichi and
Toru welcomed the outporing of efforts from people all over the
world, adding: "We still need your help. We have been ordered to
remain in custody for ten more days without charge. Please
encourage your friends to send an email to the
Japanese government, if they have not already. Keep watching
for news from Greenpeace of more actions you can take and make sure
that the global demand to investigate the whale meat scandal we
exposed is heard loud and clear here in Japan."
UPDATE July 10th, 2008:
Junich and Toru are still in custody, 20 days after their arrest
- stay tuned for further updates. Many
International Non-Governmental Organisations have signed a
Statement of Concern about the situation. Almost a quarter of a
million people have sent an email to the
Japanese government to demand their release. Have you?
Instead, Japanese police arrested the Greenpeace activists in a
show of force, occupying the Greenpeace offices with 40 police for
more than 10 hours while they seized computers, documents, and cell
The Japanese whaling programme costs the Japanese taxpayer 500
million yen per year (around 4.7 million US dollars).
"This is the backlash," said Greenpeace Executive Director Jun
Hoshikawa. "We've uncovered a scandal involving powerful forces in
the Japanese government that benefit from whaling, and it's not
surprising they are striking back. What is surprising is that these
activists, who are innocent of any crime, would be arrested for
returning whale meat that was stolen from Japanese taxpayers. In
whose interest were these arrests made? Because it would appear to
us that this is an intimidation tactic by the government agencies
responsible for a scandal."
Our first news that an arrest was imminent came from Japanese
television stations. Someone leaked the information to ensure
images of Greenpeace activists under arrest appeared on news
reports in Japan.
More than 40 police officers raided our offices and the homes of
the activists, and spent 10 hours seizing cell phones, documents,
and computers, despite the fact that we had documented every step
of how we obtained the whale meat, turned the full dossier over
with the evidence, and made ourselves available to police to help
with the investigation at any time. A simple phone call could have
brought Junichi and Toru to the police station. Instead, the
government made a public spectacle of shutting Greenpeace down.
Our four-month undercover investigation revealed evidence of an
embezzlement ring involving crew members on board the Nisshin Maru,
who were openly taking the best cuts of whale meat during the
so-called scientific hunt, smuggling it ashore disguised as
personal luggage and then passing it to traders for illegal
Working from information given by former and current Kyodo
Senpaku employees, we documented the off-loading of smuggled whale
meat into a special truck, in full view of Kyodo Senpaku officials
and crew members when the Nisshin Maru docked on April 15th, this
The consignment was documented by our team once it left the ship
and tracked to a depot in Tokyo. One of four boxes destined for the
same private address was then intercepted in order to verify the
contents and establish the fraud.
The consignment notes claimed the box contained "cardboard" but
in reality it held 23.5kg of salted 'prime' whale meat, worth up to
US$3,000. One informer told Greenpeace that dozens of crew take as
many as 20 boxes each. One crewmember was overheard to claim he
had built a house on the proceeds from his whale-meat sales over
On May 8th, before the scandal broke, Takahide Naruko, an
official with the Japanese FisheriesAgency, was asked by
investigators whether sailors "bring back somewhale meat as private
souvenirs," to which he replied "Of course not,"explaining that the
distribution of whale meat was only throughofficial channels, at a
price set by the Fisheries Agency to offset thecosts of the
publicly funded whaling programme.
Following the revelations, Kyodo Senpaku, the company that runs
the whaling ship, also at first denied that any whale meat was
beinggiven away or sold outside official channels, then changed
their storyto claim that some "souvenirs" were given to crew
members. Even so,these souvenirs were described to be a few kilos
of frozen whale meat-- very different from 23.5 kilos of prime cuts
uncoveredby Greenpeace, which the crew salt-pickle in their
On May 28th, an editorial in Asahi Shinbum noted
thecontradiction between claims by the Institute for Cetacean
Researchthat souvenirs were being handed out, and the claims by
Kyodo Senpakuthat they were not. The newspaper called the
"contrived explanations"suspicious and asked for a full
"The whaling programme in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is
funded by the Japanese taxpayers, including the Greenpeace
activists who have been arrested, and they have a right to know who
is profiting from their money," said Mister Hoshikawa.
"The Japanese whaling programme has been shamed internationally
for its lack of scientific credibility, now it is being shamed at
home as well for trying to hide the corruption, and now for taking
revenge on those who have exposed it. The Greenpeace activists
should be immediately released."
Demand the release of Junichi and Toru, and an end to Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean.
Your donations help us keep our activists in the field. They also help get them out of jail. Please give whatever you can.