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Police arrested six people Wednesday on suspicion of arranging bogus marriages to help Chinese nationals stay in Japan to work, police said.

Shosuke Kawano, 58, a suspected former gangster, allegedly arranged at least 60 such bogus marriages. One method involved taking Japanese homeless men to China and having them marry Chinese women, police said.

Investigators suspect that a Chinese human smuggling gang may also be involved in the scheme.

Spouse visas for people married to Japanese enable Chinese nationals to stay in Japan for up to three years, compared with 90 days for tourist and business visas.

Despite complex procedures, arranging fake marriages has been a relatively risk-free method of bringing in Chinese who are looking for work, investigation sources said.

Some restaurant owners in Tokyo, when hiring Chinese women, reportedly demand that they have Japanese spouses. This is apparently to avoid trouble over illegal workers in the event of police raids.

A Justice Ministry survey indicated that the number of Chinese who entered Japan as spouses of Japanese had jumped to about 5,600 in 1999 from about 2,400 in 1995.

Kawano, two other Japanese men and two Chinese women are accused of registering two bogus marriage certificates with the city offices of Kimitsu and Ichikawa, both in Chiba Prefecture, in August and October last year, respectively.

The two Japanese men arrested along with Kawano are Hajime Noguchi, 49, and Kiichi Konishi, 46, while the two Chinese women are Zheng Jianghua, 27, and Ding Pinying, 27.

A Chinese man, He Yong, 29, who was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of failing to possess a passport, was also believed to be part of the ring, police said.

The suspects are believed to have been paid a few million yen for each fake marriage, they added.

Kawano had arranged 21 trips to Shanghai and other places in China since last year, taking about 10 Japanese men on each of the trips, police said. Many of the participants in the group tours were homeless men “recruited” at Tokyo’s Ueno Park and other places, they said.

The suspects allegedly lured the homeless people by offering to pay them hundreds of thousands of yen, but in fact provided them only with lodging and meals.

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