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TOKYO, Japan -- Greenpeace is calling for the official investigation into systematic embezzlement within Japan's whaling program to be re-opened following disciplinary action against whaling officials for accepting whale meat 'gifts' from Kyodo Senpaku, the company that conducts the hunt.
As the ailing and fraudulent 'scientific' Japanese whaling fleet conducts a greatly reduced hunt in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, the Fisheries Agency of Japan (FAJ) has been forced to apologize for the misconduct of five officials who accepted gifts of whale meat totaling approximately US$3,000. A further two key officials - including the FAJ's second in command and prominent IWC negotiator,
Jun Yamashita – were handed warnings, as they were ultimately responsible for the actions of their staff.
The FAJ's apology and subsequent quiet admission of official impropriety is the first time the Japanese authorities have acknowledged the corruption exposed in 2008 by Greenpeace's Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, also known as the Tokyo Two.
"Toru Suzuki and I exposed a broad-scale whale meat embezzlement scandal inside Japan's whaling industry in 2008, and we spent over two years in court defending ourselves for speaking out," said Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Executive Director. "The FAJ's admission that high-level officials such as Yamashita were responsible for its officers accepting expensive whale meat gifts is yet more proof of this systemic and deep-rooted corruption."
Sato and Suzuki are currently appealing a one year suspended sentence, which was handed to them in September 2010 after they were found guilty of 'theft' and 'trespass' for intercepting a box of embezzled whale meat and using it to expose corruption in the whaling industry.
The box of embezzled meat Sato and Suzuki intercepted was worth $550 according to prosecutors – far less than what industry officials have now admitted to taking, and according to evidence and witness testimony from the Tokyo Two trial, what has been admitted is merely the tip of the iceberg.
In the wake of the FAJ apology, Kazuo Yamamura, head of the Japan
Whaling Association (JWA) and CEO of Kyodo Senpaku, admitted during another press conference that whale meat sales dropped 30% in the first half of 2010, forcing the JWA - the largest promoter of whale meat in Japan - to downscale its activities.
"With a smaller fleet in the Southern Ocean hunting a reduced target of whales, a growing 5,300 ton stockpile of meat in frozen storage, and now an official admission that the corruption we exposed exists, it is clear that the whaling industry's days are numbered," said Sato. "As the embezzlement of public money is now undeniable, the official investigation into the scandal we exposed must be reopened."