• Kyodo News


Six people are under arrest for suspected money-laundering involving about ¥570 million wired from a U.S. bank to Japan, police said Thursday.

The suspects are Nyeche Obeneme, 36, an auto parts dealer in Okegawa, Saitama Prefecture, who has Nigerian citizenship, two other Nigerian men, a Ghanaian man, and a man and woman from Japan.

The two unnamed Nigerian men and the Ghanaian man reportedly work at junkyards tied to Obeneme’s company.

In all, roughly ¥2.8 billion was believed wired to seven countries, including Japan, South Korea, China and Australia, from a Citibank account in New York that was set up in the name of the National Bank of Ethiopia in autumn 2008, investigative sources said.

The billions of yen were wired based on fake wire transfer documents sent to the U.S. bank. The FBI asked the National Police Agency in October 2008 to also investigate the case in Japan.

Most of the approximately ¥570 million sent to Japan has already been withdrawn, and it is unclear what has become of the money, the sources said.

Some of the suspects have said they allowed their bank accounts to be used for receiving remittances and got commissions ranging from ¥3 million to ¥7 million, the police said.

The six allegedly falsely informed bank staff the money was payment for exported construction machinery.

A total of ¥770 million believed to be linked to the case has been wired to Japanese bank accounts, and the police are looking for other recipients of the money.

The six are accused of violating a law aimed at cracking down on organized crime and controlling criminal proceeds.

Three Nigerians have been arrested in South Korea on suspicion of trying to withdraw money in connection with the case. A Nigerian man has also been arrested in the United States for allegedly sending fake wire transfer documents to Citibank.

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