Police Arrest Brewery Officials, Alleged Racketeers
TOKYO (AP) _ Four officials of Japan’s leading brewery have been arrested for allegedly paying racketeers $278,000 to ensure a peaceful annual shareholders’ meeting.
The eight alleged racketeers were also arrested in the case involving Kirin Brewery Co., which brews about half of Japan’s beer, said a police official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Japanese companies have been plagued by racketeers, called ″sokaiya.″ These extortionists buy a few shares to gain admission and threaten to bring up embarrassing questions or disrupt the meetings.
In recent years, major companies have countered by holding all their meetings in a single day so the racketeers cannot attend all of them. Police also have been out in force.
Japanese law prohibits payments to the sokaiya, with a maximum penalty of six months in prison for both the payers and receivers.
The police official said those arrested included Tai Tanaka, 56, who headed Kirin’s general affairs department at the time of the meeting March 30.
He said the eight accused of receiving the payments were led by Masayuki Kajitani, 51, who heads a sokaiya group of 40.
Payments ranging from $9,300 to more than $93,000 were made to the eight between Feb. 2 and June 2, he added.
Last year, police arrested 12 alleged racketeers at nine shareholders’ meetings.
Police estimate there are 1,200 sokaiya racketeers, down 50 from last year. Of these, some 70 are known gangsters, the National Police Agency said in a report last month.
Kirin Brewery reported sales of $12.6 billion last year, up 3.8 percent from a year earlier, with net profit of $347 million, up 2.2 percent.