Police have arrested a 66-year-old real estate company employee for allegedly conspiring to sell counterfeit Mild Seven Lights and Seven Stars, both popular cigarette brands sold by Japan Tobacco Inc., police said Thursday.

Susumu Nishihashi, who works for Yazaki Sangyo in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward, was arrested Wednesday for allegedly conspiring with his boss, Fumio Sasai, and several others to sell the bogus smokes, becoming the second person nabbed in the case.

Sasai, Yazaki Sangyo’s 58-year-old president, was apprehended June 25 on suspicion of violating the Trademark Law. On June 24, investigators found 189 boxes containing nearly 100,000 packs of the counterfeit smokes in the company’s office.

Investigators believe the two were stockpiling the cigarettes for sale.

Police said Nishihashi claimed he helped sell the cigarettes under orders from his boss and denied knowing the goods were counterfeit.

Sasai has told police that he had sold more than 100,000 packs of the counterfeit cigarettes in Japan.

Aside from the cigarettes found at Yazaki Sangyo, as of June 24, JT had found at least 83,000 packs of elaborately forged cigarettes resembling Seven Stars and Mild Seven Lights in Tokyo, Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Nagano, Okinawa and Saitama prefectures.

An additional 380 packs of counterfeit Mild Seven Lights were found at a garbage-collection point in Kobe on Wednesday, police said.

The counterfeits were almost identical to the genuine articles, except for hard-to-spot mistakes such as a missing bar code and a misprinted Chinese character.

Further investigation has revealed that Sasai had sold 56,000 packs of counterfeit cigarettes to the Okinawa branch of a Tokyo consulting company for 190 yen per pack via a broker.

The consulting firm later noticed the cigarettes were counterfeit and returned 96,000 packs to the company, including 40,000 packs it had previously bought from Yazaki Sangyo.

Seven Stars and Mild Seven Lights are among JT’s best-selling products and retail for 250 yen per pack. olice sources said earlier that counterfeit cigarettes found in Japan last month were unloaded around May 15 at Yokohama port from a container shipped from China’s Fujian Province.

Three caught with won

TSURUGA, Fukui Pref. (Kyodo) Police and prosecutors said Thursday they have arrested and indicted one Japanese and two Chinese men on charges of stealing seven 500 yen coins from a vending machine here by using altered South Korean coins.

The two Chinese men — Wu Mingxiong, 41, and Chen Xingwen, 22 — and Takeshi Sunakoda, 26, were arrested April 25 on suspicion of using doctored South Korean 500 won coins, worth about 48 yen each, to obtain 3,500 yen in 500 yen coins, police said.

The 500 won coins, which can be doctored by drilling or grinding until they weigh the same as a 500 yen coin, can be used to obtain 500 yen coins by depositing them in vending machines and then pressing the coin-return lever. To prevent this problem, many vending machines no longer accept 500 yen coins.

The three men were in possession of 1,000 of the South Korean coins when they were arrested and the coins were confiscated, the police said.

The three told investigators that they had stolen an estimated 30 million yen from vending machines in Fukui, Gifu, Aichi, Mie and Shiga prefectures by using doctored coins on more than 800 occasions, police said.

Sunakoda, Wu and Chen lived in an apartment in Gifu, according to police.