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Police nab suspects in 5.5 bil. yen land fraud targeting Sekisui House

The land plot at the center of the fraud investigation, formerly the location of an inn in the Nishigotanda district of the capital's Shinagawa ward, is seen on Oct. 12, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) on Oct. 16 arrested several members of a fraud ring over a Tokyo land plot deal causing major housing company Sekisui House Ltd. losses of roughly 5.5 billion yen, people close to the investigation said.

Masami Haketa, a 63-year-old resident of Tokyo's Adachi Ward, and others arrested in the probe by the MPD's Second Criminal Investigation Division are accused of using forged private documents with a seal, and attempting to illicitly record an original electronic notarized document. The suspects are said to belong to a group of so-called "jimen-shi" -- fraudsters who sell and buy other people's land plots without the owners' consent.

Investigators suspect that members of the fraud ring including Haketa used doctored documents to pretend that they owned an approximately 2,000-square-meter plot in the Nishigotanda district of the capital's Shinagawa Ward. Sekisui House paid a total of 6.3 billion yen to acquire the plot of land between April and June last year.

Following the payment, the housing company headquartered in the western Japan city of Osaka tried to register its ownership of the land where an inn used to stand, but couldn't because the relevant documents were found to have been fabricated. The company reported 5.55 billion yen of the payment as losses and filed a criminal complaint.

An internal probe by the company found that then Chairman Isamu Wada and then President Toshinori Abe (the current chairman) bore responsibilities in the case because the transaction proceeded even though there were opportunities to discover the fraud. Wada stepped down in January this year.

(Japanese original by Tomoko Igarashi and Kazuki Sakuma, City News Department)

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