OTSU, Shiga Pref. – The chief of the Shiga prefectural fisheries federation and seven other people were arrested Wednesday for allegedly trying to extort money from a public works contractor.
Yoshikazu Kawamori, 68, head of the Federation of Shiga Fisheries Cooperatives, and the seven others used a fraudulent claim in a bid to extort money in March 2001 from the contractor, which was working on a road-bypass project near Lake Biwa, prefectural police said.
Kawamori and his accomplices claimed that the work polluted a river and lowered the fish catch, which was not the case, according to police.
Kawamori also heads a fisheries cooperative in the Shiga Prefecture town of Maihara. Members of the co-op fish at the Amano River, which empties into Lake Biwa.
The other suspects are senior members of the co-op, police said.
Investigators said they believe the eight conspired to extort compensation funds even though the amount of fishing carried out by members of the co-op is marginal.
They reportedly tried to get the construction firm to suspend work, accusing it of causing so much pollution that fishing had become impossible.
“Show some sincerity. Sincerity means money,” police quoted the suspects as telling an official of the construction firm whom they summoned to Maihara. They also called in a local infrastructure ministry official and urged the government to shut incompetent construction firms out of projects, police said.
The suspects deny ever demanding money, according to the police.
Investigators added, however, that the contractor told police that the eight had stated that other contractors “gave the co-op a surprising amount (of money)” in what they perceived as a blackmail demand.
According to investigators, there have been several cases in which construction firms working in Shiga Prefecture have been called on by local fisheries cooperatives to hand over cash in the name of compensation.
Police searched Kawamori’s residence and other locations Wednesday morning in connection with the case.
Kawamoto is a member of Shiga Prefecture’s committee in the Third World Water Forum, an international conference on water resources to be hosted by Osaka, Kyoto and Shiga prefectures in March.
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