Greenpeace Activists Arrested in Japan for Exposing Stolen Whale Meat Scandal

Press release - June 20, 2008
Two Greenpeace activists in Japan have been arrested for exposing a stolen whale meat scandal involving the Japanese government-sponsored Southern Ocean whaling programme.

Greenpeace Japan whale campaign coordinator Junichi Sato weighs 23.5 kilograms of whale meat stolen by crewmembers of the Nisshin Maru whaling ship. The contents of the box were listed as "cardboard."

The activists, Junichi Sato, 31, and Toru Suzuki, 41, are being investigated for allegedly stealing a box of whale meat which they presented as evidence of a whale meat smuggling operation. The box had been illicitly removed by crew of the Nisshin Maru, the whaling factory ship, following this year's Southern Ocean whale hunt. It was put on display by Greenpeace activists in Tokyo on May 15th, as evidence of wide-scale corruption at the heart of the Japanese government-backed, sham scientific whaling operation in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Greenpeace requested, and was granted, a Japanese government investigation into the scandal as a result of the evidence. The Tokyo Public Prosecutors office investigation is still ongoing.

"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 by crew of the whaling fleet.  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," said Greenpeace Executive Director Jun Hoshikawa.

Greenpeace's 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 sales.

Working from information given by former and current Kyodo Senpaku employees, Greenpeace 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 year. The consignment was documented by Greenpeace activists 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.

"The whaling programme in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is funded by the Japanese tax-payers, including the Greenpeace activists who have been arrested this morning, 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."

Other contacts: In New Zealand: Bunny McDiarmid - Greenpeace Executive Director – 021 838 183 Greg McNevin - Greenpeace Communications Officer - 021 577 556 Internationally: Keiko Shirokawa: Greenpeace Japan Media, in Tokyo: + 81 90 3470 7884 Mike Townsley, Greenpeace International, in Amsterdam: +31 621 296 918

Notes: The "Stolen Japanese Whale Meat Scandal" dossier is available to download in English and Japanese at: http://www.greenpeace.org/whale-meat-scandal The 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 last month 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 any.

Exp. contact date: 2008-07-31 00:00:00

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