Greenpeace Urges Re-Opening of Whale Meat Embezzlement Investigation Following Japanese Government Apology

Press release - January 28, 2011
Tokyo, Japan, January 28, 2011 – Greenpeace is calling for the official investigation into systematic embezzlement(1) within Japan’s whaling program to be re-opened following disciplinary action against whaling officials for accepting whale meat ‘gifts’ from Kyodo Senpaku, the company that conducts the hunt.
As the ailing and fraudulent ‘scientific’ Japanese whaling fleet
conducts a greatly reduced hunt in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary,
the Fisheries Agency of Japan (FAJ) has been forced to apologise for
the misconduct of five officials who accepted gifts of whale meat
totalling approximately US$3,000. A further two key officials -
including the FAJ’s second in command and prominent IWC negotiator,
Jun Yamashita – were handed warnings, as they were ultimately
responsible for the actions of their staff.

The FAJ’s apology and subsequent quiet admission(2) of official
impropriety is the first time the Japanese authorities have
acknowledged the corruption exposed in 2008 by Greenpeace’s Junichi
Sato and Toru Suzuki, also known as the Tokyo Two.

“Toru Suzuki and I exposed a broad-scale whale meat embezzlement
scandal inside Japan’s whaling industry in 2008, and we spent over two
years in court defending ourselves for speaking out,” said Junichi
Sato, Greenpeace Japan Executive Director. “The FAJ’s admission that
high-level officials such as Yamashita were responsible for its
officers accepting expensive whale meat gifts is yet more proof of
this systemic and deep-rooted corruption.”

Sato and Suzuki are currently appealing a one year suspended sentence,
which was handed to them in September 2010 after they were found
guilty of ‘theft’ and ‘trespass’ for intercepting a box of embezzled
whale meat and using it to expose corruption in the whaling
industry.(3)

The box of embezzled meat Sato and Suzuki intercepted was worth $550
according to prosecutors – far less than what industry officials have
now admitted to taking, and according to evidence and witness
testimony from the Tokyo Two trial, what has been admitted is merely
the tip of the iceberg.

In the wake of the FAJ apology, Kazuo Yamamura, head of the Japan
Whaling Association (JWA) and CEO of Kyodo Senpaku, admitted during
another press conference that whale meat sales dropped 30% in the
first half of 2010, forcing the JWA - the largest promoter of whale
meat in Japan - to downscale its activities.(4)

“With a smaller fleet(5) in the Southern Ocean hunting a reduced
target of whales, a growing 5,300 tonne stockpile of meat in frozen
storage,(6) and now an official admission that the corruption we
exposed exists, it is clear that the whaling industry’s days are
numbered,” said Sato. “As the embezzlement of public money is now
undeniable, the official investigation into the scandal we exposed
must be reopened.”

Greenpeace is an independent, global campaigning organisation that
acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the
environment, and to promote peace. Greenpeace is opposed to commercial
whaling in all of the world’s oceans.

Notes:
1) The Tokyo Prosecutors' Office opened an investigation into
embezzlement based on evidence presented by Greenpeace Japan in May
2008; the investigation was dropped on 20 June 2008, and two
Greenpeace activists arrested. For more information, see (3) below.

2) A press release was sent to select Tokyo journalists, but not
otherwise published or uploaded to its website. A copy is available
from Greenpeace Japan.

3) In January 2008, Greenpeace began an investigation into insider
allegations that organised whale meat embezzlement was being conducted
by crew inside Japan's so-called ’scientific‘ whaling programme, which
is funded by Japanese taxpayers. The informer was previously involved
in the whaling programme, and as a result of his information, Junichi
Sato and Toru Suzuki began an investigation, eventually discovering
firm proof that cardboard boxes containing whale meat were being
secretly shipped to the homes of whaling fleet crew - and then sold
for personal profit. Junichi delivered a box of this whale meat to the
Tokyo Prosecutors' Office in May 2008, and filed a report of
embezzlement. However, the embezzlement investigation was dropped on
20 June - the same day that both men were arrested and then held for
26 days, 23 of which were without charge. They were convicted of theft
and trespass on September 6, 2010, and sentenced to one year in
prison, suspended for three years. Unexpectedly, on December 22, 2010,
the Fisheries Agency of Japan announced that it was reprimanding five
of its officials, and giving formal warnings to two senior officials,
for accepting whale meat gifts from the industry – further confirming
Sato and Suzuki’s accusations of broad-scale corruption. The Tokyo
Two, as Sato and Suzuki are known, are currently appealing their
conviction, which is due to be heard in the Sendai High Court on May
24, 2011.

More: http://www.greenpeace.org/tokyo-two

4) A report from fisheries newspaper Minato Shinbun on Monday, January
24, 2011 discussed a press conference held on January 20 by Kyodo
Senpaku, the Japan Whaling Association, and the Institute of Cetacean
Research (ICR), where the three bodies outlined the many serious
problems facing the whaling industry. Kazuo Murayama, the CEO of Kyodo
Senpaku and the head of the Japan Whaling Association said "annual
sales have decreased 30% during the first half of [2010] (fiscal
year)" and mentioned that the JWA’s activities may be decreased as a
result. The ICR announced that it has reduced the number of its
executive directors to one. Yoshihiro Fujise, who was appointed as the
first "proper" (he is a scientist promoted from within the ICR, not a
retired FAJ executive) Executive Director of ICR since Nov 30 2010,
also explained that the financial model of covering the research costs
by selling whale meat as a “byproduct” of the research no longer
worked.

5) Lloyd’s Seaweb lists the status of the Hiyo Maru, the ship used to
refuel the fleet and offload whale meat at sea, as “broken up” as of 2
September 2010. A document given to the International Whaling
Commission’s Scientific Committee (SC/62/O17) lists the Yushin-Maru 3
as being dedicated to the sightings survey. Another document
(SC/62/O3) reported that in the 2009-10 season, the Yushin-Maru 3 was
used only for sightings and did not hunt. The 2009-10 season was the
first in which only two catchers were used since the programme began
in 1987.

6) Whale meat storage figures:
2010: http://www.market.jafic.or.jp/suisan/
2009 & earlier:
http://www.maff.go.jp/j/tokei/kouhyou/suisan_ryutu/reizou_ryutu/index.html#m

Contacts:
Steve Smith - Greenpeace International Communications, +31 643 787
359