Japan - Freelance journalist sued over nuclear industry article


Minoru Tanaka, a 52-year-old Japanese freelancer who has written many investigative pieces about the nuclear power industry, is being sued for 67 million yen (600,000 euros) – an enormous sum he would never be able to pay – over a story that looked at the connections between nuclear industry figures, investors and politicians.

Published in the 16 December 2011 issue of the weekly Shukan Kinyobi and indiscreetly headlined "The last big fixer, Shiro Shirakawa, gets his share of the TEPCO nuclear cake," the article tried to shed light on Japan’s opaque nuclear industrial complex, known as the “nuclear village,” and in particular, the activities of Shiro Shirakawa, the head of a company the provides security systems for power stations owned by the electricity utility TEPCO.

The article accused Shirakawa of taking advantage of his connections with key nuclear industry figures, including TEPCO’s former chairman, and politicians such as the parliamentarian Kamei Shizuka to obtain unjustified profits since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011.

Most freelance and foreign journalists regard the libel suit that Shirakawa brought against Tanaka (but not against Shukan Kinyobi) as a bid to deter all journalists from doing investigative reporting about the nuclear industry and, in particular, about the way that the Fukushima Daiichi accident was handled.

When the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan organized a news conference in Tokyo on 31 August 2012 to give Tanaka a chance to talk about the lawsuit, not a single journalist from Japan’s official Kisha press clubs attended. Freelancers are discriminated against in Japan and excluded from the Kisha clubs. As a result, Tanaka’s freelance status prevents him from receiving the support of his colleagues and increases his vulnerability.

Freelance and independent journalists such as Yu Terasawa, Michiyoshi Hatakeyama, Yuichi Sato and Ryuichi Hirokawa are often harassed over their nuclear industry reporting. Like TEPCO and the nuclear industry in general, the government seems to fear that coverage of the Fukushima aftermath and public discontent could result in their being blamed and lead to a national debate about energy issues in Japan.

Before a Tokyo court began hearing the lawsuit on 7 May 2012, Shirakawa sent Tanaka a letter warning that he would be rendered insolvent if the court rules against him. Several hearings have been heard since then and they are steadily wearing Tanaka down.

In Tanaka’s view, the case has all the hallmarks of what is often called a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) or “gag suit,” with a powerful plaintiff who has many political and business connections, on the one hand, and an isolated journalist, on the other.

The last big fixer, Shiro Shirakawa, gets his share of the TEPCO nuclear cake published in the 16 December 2011 issue of the weekly Shukan Kinyobi. Download the full article (pdf).

The Last Fixer

A mystery letter (怪文書) was distributed at the House of Representative Building 1 towards the end of May in 2011. It was titled, “WANTED: The Transporter of Nuclear Industry Bribes” and printed on A4 sized paper. Who the heck is the person it was written about? Under the headline of the mystery letter was a copy of the ID badge of the deceased 三塚博衆院議員(Mitsuka Hiroshi-LDP)’s personal secretary, in a collage. The person being criticized in the letter was a man called  “The Last Big Fixer” aka Shirakawa Shiro.

“Ishihara Bank” also involved in huge loans

The house of Mr. Shirakawa is like a fortress in the middle of Shibuya, surrounded by concrete walls. There are few windows in the 2 story building but plenty of security cameras. His house was built in 2008 by Nishimatsu Kensetsu (Nishimatsu Construction). The building and 300 tsubo (坪)of land is owned under the name Nihon Tekusa (日本テクサ). The firm is 100% financed by Nyutekku (株式会社ニューテック)which can be said to be the center of a group of companies headed by Shirakawa.

On the front gate of Shirakawa’s home, the placard reads in capitalized English letters SHIRAKAWA, it is said to be his de facto home. On May 31st of 2010, a 4,000,000,000 yen 抵当権 (mortgage) was placed on the dwelling. Nishimatsu Construction put down the mortgage and the debtor was listed as Nyutekku. This took place on the same day. Nishimatsu (essentially) made Shirakawa admit to borrowing 4,000,000,000 and held the home and property as collateral. In addition, 48 items related to Mr. Shirakawa were offered as collateral. However, on October 13th of 2011, Nishimatsu’s mortgage was erased. Nyutekku said that within roughly a year and half, “All was repaid.” (Nyutekku General Affairs).

On the same day (October 13th), Shinginko Tokyo, using the same property as collateral, made a provisional registration of a loan of 7 million yen to Nyutekku. (The records state the loan contract was made on September 28th, 2011*predating the registration.) There were six items of collateral for the loan but their total value was less than the value of the loan.
What is Shin Tokyo Ginko? Many know it as the bank that Tokyo Governor Ishihara created. Within three years of opening, the majority of it’s unsecured loans turned bad or were eaten up by the Japanese underworld, resulting in 100,000,000,000 yen of non-performing loans. A huge amount of taxes was thrown away. Still, it’s a surprise that the central company of this fixer was able to get such a huge loan from the bank.

Nyutekku General Affairs had this to say about the flow of money, “The money from Nishimatsu was only used for our company business” “We never, for any reason, paid money to a Diet member.” Concerning the provisional mortgage of 700,000,000 yen on the property from Shin Tokyo Ginko, they answered, “It was a temporary measure until a more substantial form of collateral could be found,” adding that after the 10th of December, the provisional mortgage had been erased (dealt with).  Nishimatsu says, “There were no compliance issues with the loan.” The Shin Tokyo Ginko said, “We cannot discuss individual transactions.”

Rokkasho HQ for Nyutekku

What kind of company is Nyutekku? Their headquarters are located in Aomori Prefecture Rokkasho Village. They have branch offices in Tokyo Minato-Ward Nishishinbashi. With the aid of the former head of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, starting in 1985, they created a company called Nihon Anzen Hosho Keibi, which acted as an inspector and maintenance provider for equipment at nuclear facilities.

The company changed it’s name to Nyutekku in December of 2001. According to a civilian credit ratings firm, for the 2004 March fiscal period, the company had an annual turnover of 2,100,000,000 yen. Mr. Shirakawa became the gatekeeper to profits in the nuclear security business. In March of 2001, Shirakawa resigned, and cut capital ties to the firm but still maintained a silent influence on the firm. A TEPCO subsidiary company,Tokyo Living’s former CEO and the lawyer Hamada Takujiro came on as auditors. The former CEO became Shirakawa’s conduit to TEPCO and his right-hand man. It is said that Shirakawa’s power comes from his network of associates connected to TEPCO’s nuclear development. Shirakawa was introduced to Araki Hiroshi, former Chairman of TEPCO by Diet member Kamei Shizuka. Included in the TEPCO network, is the former CEO of Nishmatsu Construction, 国沢幹雄 (Kunisawa Mikio). Several years ago, on the sole authority of Kunisawa, it is said that it was decided to loan 4,000,000,000 yen to Nyutekku.

But! In early 2009, the Tokyo District Special Prosecution Office (TPO) arrested Kunisawa for violations of the foreign exchange law (外為法違反). The case expanded to include an investigation of (alleged) illegal political fund contributions from Nishimatsu to Ozawa Ichiro’s political fund Rikuzankai. Nishimatsu decided to radically change the management and in June of 2009, they welcomed on board former Osaka High Prosecutor Osaka Sadao (逢坂貞夫)as an outside director. Mr. Osaka took issue with past financing by Nyutekku and urged them to put up collateral on their loans and repay them in a short time, according to some reports. Isn’t it likely that the result was the 4,000,000,000 yen mortgage registered on the real estate deeds?

Kamei Shizuka and Shirakawa

Shirakawa was born in 1945 in Kagawa Prefecture. He was a salaried worker and moved onto to become a self-employed businessman. He became close to a power diet member, Hiroshi Mitsuka, and took the titles of his secretary. He became a conduit between the political and financial world for his boss. He also had the role as a go-between between the underworld and the political-economic sphere.He was particularly close to Kamei Shizuka, and this is well known.

He also became very close to the former chairman of Mizutani Kensetsu, a mid-level construction firm undergoing financial restructuring. Chairman Mizutani Isao was arrested by the TPO for 11,00,000,000 yen in tax evasion in July of 2006. Mizutani was sentenced to two years of hard labor. It was suspected (but never proved) that the bulk of the unpaid taxes came from TEPCO related contracts on soil disposal for the Fukushima Dai Ni reactor. Roughly 600,000,000 yen was allegedly used in bribes. (Related to the Soil disposal for Fukushima Dai Ni contracts and work it is known that…) Maeda Kensetsu was the primary contractor, Mizutani Kensetsu the subcontractor and there were several sub-subcontractors, amongst which Shirakawa connected companies were included.

The prosecutors at first envisioned a scenario in which in the process of contracting and subcontracting that large amounts of money were siphoned off to pay off Shirakawa related companies and Takeuchi Youichi (a former Yamaguchi-gumi boss) and his company Gyosei Kenkyujo, and finally some of it going as unreported political donations. The investigation went as far as Shirakawa and former TEPCO chairman Araki. However, the prosecutors couldn’t close the deal.  The prosecution having raised their fists in anger found themselves with no one to punch, and finally settled for prosecuting the governor of Fukushima Prefecture (at that time) Sato Eisaku and conducted a desperate investigation. The final result being the conviction of the governor for taking a bribe, in which the amount of the bribe he took was recognized as “zero yen”—an unprecedented verdict. Shirakawa’s source of wealth comes from the group of companies of which Nyutekku is the center and the powerful bonds he forged with other companies in his field.

Other than Nyutekku we can list the following:
Nihon Tekusa (100% subsidiary of Nyutekku)
The company leases, does security for, and protects nuclear related facilities.
Nyutekku Technology Services (100% subsidiary of Nihon Tekusa). It does construction work relating to security at nuclear facilities. It was formerly called 日安建設.
Rokkasho Gennen Keibi, partially funded by Nyutekku and does security for Rokkasho Nuclear Reprocessing Plant and interim storage facilities.
J.S.S. (Tokyo, Shinjuku)
Kamei Shizuka, other politicians and capital from JAL played a central part in forming the company. The firm handles airport security.
36 employees from Nyutekku were transferred to the company in 1988. 
For some odd reason, JSS is located right next to the home of TEPCO former Chairman Katsumata Tsunehisa. In the small space between JSS and Katsumata’s home there is a small police box, where a policeman stands guard 24 hours a day. It is questionable whether tax money should be spent on what amounts to Mr. Katsumata’s personal security.
In this tangled way, with Nyutekku at the center, Shirakawa has a complicated role in profiting from the nuclear industry.

The Last Fixer Shirakawa Shiro/Taking a bite of the TEPCO Nuclear Interests By Tanaka Minoru from Weekly Friday Magazine (週刊金曜日) Number 876 December 16th 2011 Unofficial translation for reference only. Please refer to the original Japanese article for quotations.

Minoru Tanaka explains his story and how publishing it on WeFightcensorship can help him as a journalist during the press conference organised by RSF :

I want RSF and this website, WeFightCensorship, to spread this hidden story to the rest of the world and to as many readers as possible. [2]

  1. TEPCO is a japanese electric utilities servicing Japan's Kanto region, Yamanashi Prefecture, and the eastern portion of Shizuoka Prefecture. This area include Tokyo.
  2. Get involved in Minoru's Tanaka's fight and create a WefightCensorship mirror site.

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