• Kyodo

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Police arrested six people Thursday on suspicion of falsely identifying the origin of Tongan pumpkins as Mexican before distributing them to a wholesaler, police officials said.

Four employees of the Osaka-based semipublic cargo-handling company Osaka Port Terminal Co., including Yoshiyuki Takada, 53, and two former employees of Kyoto-based vegetable trader Royal Co., including Naohiko Inoue, 35, were arrested, police said.

They are suspected of putting 15.1 tons of pumpkins from Tonga into boxes labeled as Mexican produce and shipping them to a Tokyo wholesaler in December 2001, thereby violating the Unfair Competition Prevention Law, police said.

Royal officials said the origin of the pumpkins was faked because the company was short of Mexican pumpkins necessary to fill the orders it had received, the police said.

Investigators believe Royal’s Inoue instructed the other five to take this action, they said.

All have admitted to the allegations except for Takada, who says he has no memory of what transpired three years ago, according to the police.

After information on faked farm produce origins emerged in July, Osaka Port Terminal told the Osaka Municipal Government that the origins of some imports had been falsified.

Osaka police raided the offices of Osaka Port Terminal and Royal in July and August, alleging that the two firms had mixed cheaper Chinese broccoli into U.S. imports in March 2002.

But the police investigation found that the act had taken place in the spring of 2001. It was thus subject to no criminal charges as the three-year statute of limitations had expired.

As a result, police have focused on the alleged falsification of the origin of pumpkins, the officials said.

Osaka Port Terminal is also alleged to have falsified the origins of imported bananas and pineapples.

Osaka Mayor Junichi Seki voiced regret over the arrest of Osaka Port Terminal employees, as the firm is a public-private entity under the control of the municipal government.

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