SYDNEY – New Zealand education and immigration officials are investigating “worrying concerns” about an unregistered Auckland-based Japanese academy after one of its students was found dead last week, it was announced Monday.
Nozomu Shinozaki, 22, from Yokohama, was found dead with head injuries Wednesday at Columbus Academy in West Harbor, West Auckland.
Assault and kidnapping charges have been filed against nine Japanese students at the performing arts academy aged between 17 and 26. The academy’s director, Katsuo Kanamori, 49, has been charged with attempting to obstruct justice after allegedly telling his students not to cooperate with police.
The academy is not registered as a private training institute and has not been approved as an education facility, Education Minister Trevor Mallard said.
The government has issued no immigration visas specifically for Columbus Academy.
“But at least some of the individuals involved do have student permits to attend registered educational facilities,” the minister said in a statement.
“This raises questions as to the status of the institution, and exactly what services it was providing to people attending it.”
The academy is a nonprofit organization established in Yokohama in 1989 to help troubled young people. It has about 50 students under its care at its Auckland facility, which was set up in 1995.
The students, who live either in academy dormitories at its five West Auckland properties or in home-stays around the city, take high school or university classes, and some work in the academy’s two restaurants in central Auckland and suburban Henderson.
“(Shinozaki’s) death has exposed some worrying concerns both about the facility and the wider immigration issues,” Mallard said.
Immigration and education officials were to meet Monday in Auckland and report back to the government by early next week, he said.
The unregistered academy has drawn criticism and calls for the students to be deported by opposition New Zealand First Party leader Winston Peters, a politician known for his stance against immigration.
“The Japanese government would certainly not welcome a plane load of (gang) prospects from New Zealand, so why should we import their social problems?” he asked in a statement.
All 10 of the accused Japanese have been released on bail after entering no plea and are under supervision and a 24-hour curfew until their next court appearance March 13. Under the bail conditions, Kanamori is forbidden from contacting his students.
Police have said they expect to issue further accusations.
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