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OSAKA — The head of an Osaka finance company known as the Swiss Private Fund and former executives of the firm and an affiliate were arrested Thursday for allegedly violating the investment deposit and interest rate control law.

The SPF group, claiming to have global headquarters in Zurich, is suspected of obtaining money from people throughout Japan with a promise of investing in financially solid ventures but instead loaning it to heavily indebted borrowers at interest rates higher than the legal ceiling.

Those placed under arrest were the chairman, Masaru Wanaka, 57; Emiko Natsukawa, 38, a former official of an affiliated company; and Hajime Okada, 30, a former SPF executive.

All are from the city of Osaka.

They allegedly collected at least 158 million yen from nine people between May 2001 and July 2002 by guaranteeing the repayment of the principal and interest; such guarantees are banned by law.

Police, however, suspect the company gathered as much as 3.3 billion yen from around 640 investors.

Wanaka, when questioned by police last year, said he does not believe his company was violating the law because the money was invested in affiliated companies. Police sources say these affiliates were running the loan operation.

On Thursday, police also searched the suspects’ homes and other locations.

SPF itself was searched in September.

Four affiliated companies filed for court protection from creditors under the Civil Rehabilitation Law on Dec. 18.

One investor filed a damages suit Dec. 24 for 22 million yen against Wanaka and his company and the four affiliates.

The man, who paid 20 million yen to the SPF group, claimed he was lured by advertisements soliciting investment for “the world’s top financial products made the best by Switzerland.”

SPF had once claimed on its Web site that it was an international financial company with its global head office in Zurich, but after the company was targeted by police last year, Wanaka said in an interview that he may have “inconvenienced” people by describing the firm inappropriately. However, he added that no inconvenience should have been caused in actuality.

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