National

Firm exposed in unusual mislabeling scam

Kyodo

A furniture company in Takamatsu sold nearly 20,000 items of furniture featuring forged made-in-prison stickers between 1998 and 2002, prison sources said Friday.

The stickers carried the CAPIC logo designed by the Correctional Association, a prison welfare organization affiliated with the Justice Ministry.

Genuine CAPIC stickers are thought to increase sales by informing consumers that a piece of furniture is made of higher quality materials bought with the savings on labor expenses. They also tug on consumers’ charitable inclinations.

The furniture firm, one of 10 firms designated by the Justice Ministry as a “prison sponsor company,” forged 60,000 CAPIC seals and sold about 19,400 pieces of “CAPIC furniture” actually produced by local manufacturers.

The company, whose name is being withheld, has since been barred from participating in prison product fairs and prohibited from doing business with the Correctional Association Prison Industry Cooperation, the sources said.

CAPIC itself has been accused of using its stickers to pass off furniture imported from Southeast Asia as products made at Okayama Prison.

According to the Justice Ministry’s Correction Bureau, the oval-shaped seals, which have since been replaced, measure 3.5 cm by 2 cm.

A Correctional Association official admitted that the seals were easily replicated, adding that the handling of the stickers was left at the discretion of each prison.

Products made entirely in prison bear gold-colored CAPIC seals, while products made using parts obtained from the outside bear silver ones. The seals were kept at each prison and were meant to be applied to products as they were shipped out.

The furniture maker’s forged seals are almost indistinguishable from genuine ones, except that the lettering is bolder, the sources said.

The company, based in the capital of Kagawa Prefecture, allegedly forged 30,000 gold seals and 30,000 silver seals. It applied 7,240 gold seals and 12,160 silver seals to nonprison products.

The forgery came to light after another furniture maker reported this practice to the Justice Ministry.

Having admitted to the forgery scam, the company apologized to its clients in February.

“Thinking about sales, I couldn’t help it,” the president of the company told Kyodo News.

The 57-year-old manager of the furniture company blamed the lax supervision of prison authorities, stating that some furniture companies could obtain the seals directly from prison officials.

The rules over the handling of the seals “differed from prison to prison, and from person to person,” he said.

In April, the Justice Ministry introduced a new system in which prison employees stamp the logo on blank prison-product seals.