HOKKAIDO (TR) – Hokkaido Prefectural Police have arrested six persons, including a member of a criminal syndicate, over the alleged poaching of namako, or sea cucumbers, reports Fuji News Network (April 5).
According to police, the suspects include Hajime Takahashi, a 39-year-old member of the Kodo-kai, Park Yong-hyou, the 73-year-old president of seafood company Sannomiya Foods, and four others.
On two occasions between February 8 and 15, Takahashi and the other four suspects allegedly poached 390 kilograms of sea cucumbers from the coastal waters of Hakodate City.
The suspects then sold the sea cucumbers to Park for about 1 million yen, police said.
During the investigation, police seized diving gear, including swim fins, nets, wetsuits, an inflatable boat and scuba tanks.
Long history of dealing with gangsters
According to police, Park has a long history of dealing with gangsters. It is believed that the revenue from the poaching is a source of funds for the Kodo-kai, which is a key affiliate gang of the Yamaguchi-gumi.
Last December, a modification to the Fisheries Act went into effect. Under the revision, poachers of sea cucumbers and other delicacies face up to 3 years in prison and a fine of 30 million yen.
Though the maximum prison term remains the same, the fine is a significant increase over the 2 million yen in place before.
Park and the other suspects are the first persons in the country to be arrested since the revision went into effect.