The Aomori district court delivered a setback to the Japanese government’s attempts to cover up an embezzlement scandal in the so-called “scientific” Southern Ocean whaling programme. The court has agreed to hear key evidence the prosecution has fought to keep out of the trial of Greenpeace
activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki.
Sato and Suzuki are being prosecuted, and risk up to ten years in jail if convicted, after they exposed a major corruption scanda surrounding the Japanese government-sponsored Southern Ocean whaling programme. The two removed a box of embezzled whale meat from a mail depot, and presented it to Japan’s Public Prosecutor to prove the existence of corruption in the government-subsidised whaling programme.
The prosecutor had tried to paint the actions of the defendants as a simple case of theft, arguing that all evidence related to the underlying embezzlement scandal should be ruled irrelevant. The court, however, indicated that the evidence of embezzlement will have a place in the trial.
“In this trial, we want to establish that what Junichi and Toru did was to corroborate information provided by whistleblowers regarding embezzlement within the Kyodo Senpaku whaling fleet,” said defence lawyer Yuichi Kaido.
“With the prosecutor’s opinion being rejected by the court, we have gained a foothold in this case and the opportunity to prove that there was indeed embezzlement of whale meat by employees.”
Furthermore, the court also requested the disclosure of additional evidence of embezzlement held by the prosecutor’s office that has not yet been made public. This could possibly include key statements made to police by employees of Kyodo Senpaku, the company contracted to carry out the Southern Ocean whaling programme.
“The government was hoping to bury this scandal by putting the messengers on trial,” said Jun Hoshikawa, Greenpeace Japan Executive Director. “However, as more evidence of embezzlement comes to light, at the end of the day it will be whaling that is on trial.”