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Three Businessmen Arrested In Japan’s AIDS Scandal

September 19, 1996

TOKYO (AP) _ The president of a major pharmaceutical company and two of its former executives were arrested today on suspicion of knowingly selling blood products tainted with the AIDS virus.

The arrests came one day after Dr. Takeshi Abe, 80, a former government official, became the first person formally charged in one of Japan’s worst medical scandals in years.

The three Green Cross Corp. executives are accused of professional negligence in the death of a man who received tainted blood in 1986, prosecutors said.

From 1983 to 1985, 2,000 Japanese, mostly hemophiliacs, contracted the AIDS virus from blood that was not heat-treated to kill it. More than 400 have since died.

The heat treatment wasn’t approved in Japan until 1985, even though it was used in other countries, including the United States, several years earlier.

Green Cross, based in the western city of Osaka, is one of several pharmaceutical firms suspected of selling tainted blood products after 1985, even though it allegedly knew of the risks involved.

Green Cross has faced a nationwide boycott of its products because of the scandal, and in March the family of a blood recipient who died of AIDS lodged a criminal complaint of murder against the three Green Cross executives arrested today.

Prosecutors identified them as Green Cross president Takehiko Kawano, former president Renzo Matsushita and former vice president Tadakazu Suyama.

Kawano was head of the company’s blood products manufacturing department in the mid-1980s. Matsushita, a former Health and Welfare Ministry worker, joined Green Cross in the late 1970s and left the company in 1995. Suyama was a top executive until 1993 and still serves as a company adviser.

On Wednesday, Tokyo prosecutors charged Abe with professional negligence for giving untreated blood to a hemophiliac patient who later died of AIDS.

Abe, former head of a Health Ministry panel on AIDS, has been accused of protecting domestic manufacturers by delaying the ministry’s approval of safe heat-treated blood products available overseas.

The Tokyo District Court refused today to release Abe on bail. He has been in custody since Aug. 29.

Update hourly