• Kyodo

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Police will launch a full investigation next week into the activities of five executives of Snow Brand Foods Co. implicated in a meat mislabeling scam, investigative sources said.

The executives include Shigeru Hatakeyama, 55, former head of the company’s meat sales and procurement division, and Tetsuaki Sugawara, 47, former head of the Kansai Meat Center in Hyogo Prefecture, the investigative sources said Tuesday.

In March, Snow Brand Foods, a subsidiary of Snow Brand Milk Products Co., dismissed the five executives and 14 other employees over the labeling scandal.

The company passed off Australian and American beef as Japanese meat to obtain subsidies under a government beef buyback program introduced in the wake of the September outbreak of mad cow disease.

More than 10 executives and employees who were allegedly involved in the mislabeling scheme will also be interrogated, according to the sources.

They said investigators will continue their probe of Snow Brand Foods, which was officially disbanded Tuesday due to a sharp reduction in earnings. As the company will remain in existence while it undergoes liquidation proceedings, the police may file charges against it for violating the Food Sanitation Law, the sources said.

According to investigative sources, Hatakeyama and others falsely labeled tons of imported beef products as domestic produce between October and November. They are also suspected of having swindled an industry body out of some 196 million yen.

The industry body purchased roughly 280 tons of beef from Snow Brand Food, of which some 30 tons was identified as having been fraudulently labeled as domestic.

In early April, Snow Brand Foods shareholders endorsed a management plan to dissolve the company. The firm dismissed some 800 of its 930 regular employees at the end of March, 292 of whom had found new jobs as of April 19.

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