An update on the latest Japanese whaling scandal -- by Greg McNevin.

Two years ago, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki exposed the corrupt heart of the whaling industry in the form of an embezzlement scandal reaching from the flensing deck of the Nisshin Maru, right up the chain of command to the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) and even into the Japanese parliament.

As Australia’s Foreign Correspondent detailed on June 8*, for their efforts the Tokyo Two, as Junichi and Toru are known, have been rewarded with violations of their human rights through arbitrary detainment, a long and unnecessary prosecution, and the threat of a disproportionate sentence of one year and six months jail time, while authorities covered up the theft of public money from the whaling programme.

The UK newspaper, The Guardian, also carried an account from the former whaler turned whistleblower, who risked his life by turning to Greenpeace, in the hope of making public the scandals he witnessed on board the whaling ships.

With further allegations of corruption within Japan’s publicly-funded whaling industry surfacing this week, it is clear that what the Tokyo Two had uncovered is merely the tip of the Southern Ocean iceberg.

Last week, the UK’s Sunday Times released the results of an undercover investigation into long-running allegations of Japanese vote-buying at the International Whaling Commission (IWC). While hardly surprising after years of rumour and even claims by one former Dominica government minister who resigned over the issue, it's the newspapers’ revelation that Japan has been buying off delegates to the IWC with flights, accommodation, spending money and even sexual favours, remains shocking.

This week, both the Sunday Times and the BBC have followed up with detailed interviews with a new Greenpeace whistleblower, who has intimate knowledge of the backroom deals Japan has struck with African, Caribbean and Pacific Island nations.

With Iceland under pressure to end its whaling as a condition of its EU membership candidacy, Japan’s list of allies is growing thin, and with its position under fire it has once again threatened to quit the IWC. However, this will not solve its troubles back home. When the cost of buying votes is tallied up next to the embezzled whale meat and the cost of keeping the whaling industry on taxpayer-funded life support, the bill for the Japanese people just keeps mounting. Considering Japan is drowning in debt and the new Government is backing out of election promises to curb wasteful spending, this adds insult to injury, and whales are still being killed.

It is time for world governments to stand together, close the loopholes in the 1986 commercial whaling moratorium, and end whaling in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary once and for all. It is time for the Japanese government end its’ financial and political support for the whaling industry, properly investigation the corruption that has been repeatedly exposed within it, and end the human rights abuses that are being committed to protect it.

-- Greg

*To watch the Foreign Correspondent program about the Tokyo Two - click on "The Catch" in the menu on the left side.

Image: Japanese Whaling Industry Whistle-blower "Mr Kujira". "Mr. Kujira" (assumed name meaning Mr Whale ), wearing his Kyodo Senpaku whaling fleet uniform, the seaman who worked aboard the Kyodo Senpaku ship the Nisshin Maru (research/factory ship of the Japanese whaling fleet), in Tokyo, Japan, Sunday 13th June 2010. The 'whistle-blower' Mr. Kujira has spoken out in criticism of practices within the whaling industry which include the wasteful dumping of whale meat, and alleged embezzlement of whale meat by whalers. © Greenpeace/ Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert.