Russia detains Japan fishing boat

Kyodo

A Japanese fishing boat reportedly exported illegally to Russia in 2000 has been detained by the Russian coast guard at Vladivostok, Japan Coast Guard officials said Tuesday.

The Russian coast guard’s Pacific bureau provided the information to Japan’s No. 1 Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Otaru, Hokkaido, following an inquiry Monday for information on the 209-ton squid boat, the Koryo Maru No. 38, the officials said.

The Russian authorities appear to have detained the boat on a law violation, but it is not clear what the suspicions are.

The authorities apparently do not know the whereabouts of Dmitriy Shcherbakov, the Japan representative of the Asia-Pacific Fishery, a Russian fishery firm that owns the boat. Shcherbakov is suspected of having a leading role in the illegal exporting case, the officials said.

The Japan Coast Guard and Japanese police have obtained an arrest warrant for Shcherbakov, 47, who is believed to be in Russia.

Takashi Sakashita, 67, the Japanese manager of Asia-Pacific Fishery’s Nemuro, Hokkaido, office, was arrested Saturday along with two other men.

The three suspects, who have basically admitted they improperly exported the boat, were turned over to prosecutors Sunday.

The export papers they submitted to the Japanese government said the vessel had been sold to a Philippine fishery firm, although the ship left Nemuro in June 2000 and ended up in Russia as property of Asia-Pacific Fishery, Japanese investigative sources said.

The authorities believe the three provided a false destination because of the difficulty in obtaining a government license to export fishing boats to Russia due to competition between the fishing industries of Japan and Russia.

Japanese authorities began investigating the transaction after the ship was found in April 2002 off-loading crab in Nemuro.

Officials became suspicious after the crew of the Koryo Maru, which was sailing under the Russian flag, presented port clearance papers issued by North Korea.

Japanese authorities said they determined the port clearance papers were authentic but discovered that the ship had been illegally exported to Russia.