• Kyodo

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Kagoshima Gov. Tatsuro Suga expressed hope Monday for a full-scale crackdown on the alleged sale of “shochu” liquor falsely labeled as a sought-after local brand.

Suga was commenting on the arrest Sunday of three people suspected of selling through the Internet bottles of shochu falsely labeled as Mori Izo, a rare shochu produced by a distiller in Tarumizu, Kagoshima Prefecture.

Made from sweet potatoes, Mori Izo shochu goes up in value due to its limited output. Its distiller, Mori Izo Shuzo, sells a 1.8-liter bottle for 3,000 yen to 4,000 yen, but a bottle often goes for 30,000 yen to 40,000 yen in Internet auctions.

The suspects are Yoshinori Maruno, 48, from Yao, Osaka Prefecture; Takeshi Koriyama, 47, from the Aira-gun area of Kagoshima Prefecture; and Akira Warabino, 45, from Chikushino, Fukuoka Prefecture.

The Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office arrested the three on suspicion they advertised on an Internet auction site that they would sell Mori Izo bottles on two occasions, in October and March.

To the winning bidders, they sent bottles of shochu made by other distillers but carrying false Mori Izo labels, fetching 29,000 yen to 40,000 yen a bottle, according to prosecutors.

The scam came to light when a buyer who purchased bottles from Maruno and Koriyama noticed the label on the fakes was different from that of authentic Mori Izo he had purchased earlier. The man inquired with the distiller, which in turn filed a complaint against the suspects, the officials said.

Gov. Suga said the forgery was “extremely regrettable” and he wants such acts “to be fully curbed.” Kagoshima is a major producer of shochu.

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