By Linda Salim, for SeafoodSource from Surabaya, Indonesia
Published on Thursday, July 03, 2008
Isamu Kuroiwa, chairman of World Ocean Farm of Japan, along with nine accomplices, were taken into custody this week for alleged shrimp farm fraud. In addition to the 10 arrests, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department is looking for eight more people tied to the case.
According to Japanese news reports, World Ocean Farm, from 2005 to the time its headquarters were shut down in July 2007, accumulated more than $600 million in capital from some 40,000 individuals. Investors were told their money was being invested in a shrimp farm in the Philippines, from which they were paid dividends every 10 days.
The operation went unquestioned until January 2007 when World Ocean gradually stopped paying dividends until it announced bankruptcy in July 2007. During the first half of last year, World Ocean still managed to amass some 30 clients.
Kuroiwa disappeared soon after the company was shut down.
Metro Police investigated the case upon investors' complaints and also checked out the shrimp farm in the Philippines, which turned out to be much smaller than expected.
A Metro Police investigator believes that no less than $6 million of the fund remained in the country.
Some $45 million was transferred to a German bank's U.S. branch in April 2007. It was then re-transferred to the personal account of a Japanese resident living in California. Upon re-transfer, the Federal Bureau of Investigation suspected money laundering and summoned Kuroiwa for questioning. Kuroiwa insisted he had appointed his friend to manage the money for a foundation under his control, Nippon Hoshi-Kai, which he claimed to be the president of. Unsatisfied with his response, the FBI froze the account soon after questioning, suspecting Kuroiwa's affiliation with organized criminal activities.