• Kyodo


Seven people, including the 62-year-old chairman of Nagoya-based meat wholesaler Fujichiku, were arrested Monday on suspicion of fraudulently receiving more than 300 million yen in subsidies in the wake of the mad cow scare.

It is the fifth criminal case involving the mislabeling of beef in an effort to receive money from the government, which was buying beef to assist domestic producers who saw consumption plunge after Japan’s first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy came to light in September 2001.

In addition to the arrests, Aichi Prefectural Police searched dozens of locations, including Fujichiku’s headquarters and the home of its chairman, Yoshiharu Fujimura, in connection with the case.

Some of the suspects, including Fujimura, have admitted committing fraud, according to police.

Based on their investigations, police allege the suspects collected the subsidies after passing off some 200 tons of imported beef as domestic around December 2001 through a prefectural meat cooperative. The co-op, for which Fujimura also serves as a representative director, had been purchasing the beef on behalf of the government.

Officials at the farm ministry said it was told by the co-op that it was buying 1,246 tons of beef from one group and five companies. The amount made up for roughly 10 percent of the government’s entire beef buyback scheme. Fujichiku and affiliated firms accounted for 1,221 tons of the total.

With the inclusion of storage costs, the cooperative received about 2.38 billion yen in subsidies from the government.

Fujichiku officials apologized Monday for the scam and expressed regret over the arrest of its chairman. They added that they hope the investigation clarifies everything surrounding the allegations.

The Fujichiku group id a key player in the Chubu region meat industry, and sources said Fujimura was a heavyweight in the business.

He established Fujichiku in 1976, building on the meat wholesale business started by his father. By the business year ending in April 1998, the business had annual sales of some 69 billion yen.

However, some industry insiders find the group’s rapid success dubious, saying they were surprised to see it grow even though it had few customers to which it was selling.

The Fujichiku case follows in the footsteps of similar frauds by other firms.

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