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http://www.asahi.com/english/enews/enews.html#enews_19556 February 9, 1999 Waste firm suspected of tax dodge Troubles mount for Shinkanpo, which has been told to reduce air pollution near the U.S. military base in Atsugi. Asahi Shimbun AYASE, Kanagawa Prefecture--An industrial waste disposal company near a U.S. military base here is suspected of evading 400 million yen in taxes, sources said on Monday. The Yokohama District Public Prosecutors Office is expected soon to search the company, Shinkanpo, which was allotted 1.2 billion yen from the national budget in December to reduce air pollution near the base. The Kanagawa-based company is suspected of violating the corporate income tax law. The taxpayer money to fund the pollution cleanup was allotted to Shinkanpo after the matter came up while Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi visited U.S. President Bill Clinton in November. Shinkanpo is suspected of concealing billions of yen in income over a four-year period ending March 1997 to evade paying at least 400 million yen in taxes. Tax authorities inspected the company in the summer of 1997 and discovered that the company had set up dummy companies in Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture for the purpose of falsifying production cost statements, sources said. The company's incinerators are positioned 250 meters south of a residential area that includes 800 households inside the U.S. Naval Air Facility Atsugi base in Kanagawa. Winds carried the smoke directly from the company's three smokestacks to the homes. U.S. military officials had repeatedly asked the Japanese government to combat the problem, citing health concerns. According to a survey by the U.S. military, 33.4 to 16.7 picograms (one picogram is a trillionth of a gram) of dioxin were detected in one cubic meter of air in the area, exceeding environmental standards in the United States. Japan and the United States conducted a joint survey in September 1997. According to results obtained by Japanese researchers, the air included only 0.8 picogram of dioxin, which Environment Agency officials said is within the limits under Japanese law. But when Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura visited the United States in August 1998, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen asked Komura to take measures. In November, Obuchi and Clinton agreed to "make efforts to solve the problem." The Japanese government then added 1.2 billion yen to the supplementary budget in December so that Shinkanpo could build a waste distinguishing facility. Farmers: Dioxin scare ruining us The governor of Saitama Prefecture listens to farmers' woes, but no action is promised on tackling pollution. Asahi Shimbun A delegation of farmers met with the governor of Saitama Prefecture on Monday to demand action to prevent dioxin from contaminating their produce. They told Yoshihiko Tsuchiya they can no longer accept the presence of industrial incinerators in the area. In a symbolic gesture, they presented him with bundles of spinach to eat when he got home. They assured him it was fresh and safe to eat, despite media reports of high levels of dioxin pollution. The seven farmers, all in work overalls, were furious that supermarkets and stores in Tokorozawa have stopped selling their produce. More than 70 farmers waited to hear the outcome of the meeting. "I know what you folks have to say," Tsuchiya said. "We cannot coexist with the incinerators any longer," said a spokesman for the farmers' delegation, as he presented 20 bundles of spinach from the previous day's crop. Locally grown vegetables that can still be found are being sold at half price. The farmers complained that they have been forced to dump their crops in this bedroom community of about 320,000 people. The uproar follows reports of high dioxin in the area and the initial refusal of the Tokorozawa branch of the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA) to divulge the results of a 1997 investigation into dioxin pollution. JA has since done a about-turn, but some members say disclosure alone may not be enough to reverse the situation. Markets in Tokyo and areas around Tokorozawa have been shunning the local produce. According to a fruit and vegetable wholesaler in Tokyo's Ota Market, prices for a bundle of Tokorozawa spinach Monday morning were between 20 yen and 30 yen, a quarter of that charged for produce grown in Gunma and Chiba prefectures. In fact, prices for all crops produced in Saitama have dropped dramatically. The Tokorozawa crisis flared after TV Asahi conducted its own investigation into the level of dioxin pollution and aired a story that said the situation was more severe than officials had let on. "The TV coverage is having a tremendous effect on the market," the wholesaler said. Prior to TV Asahi's report, spinach sold for between 70 yen and 80 yen a bundle. Last Friday, the average price was down to 38 yen. "It feels horrible having to toss out your own vegetables after spending so time and effort to grow them," said a 71-year-old farmer as he drove to a dump to unload unsold spinach and turnip. Prior to the Tokorozawa crisis, the farmer sold an average of 100 bundles of spinach a day. Now he's lucky to sell 40, and at 70 percent of what prices used to be. "If the vegetables really are contaminated, then no one should be forced to eat them," the farmer said. "But if they're not ... ." An incinerator constructed in the early 1990s is located about 50 meters from the dump. White ash that spews from the plant blankets nearby fields of Chinese cabbage. Late last year, the Ministry of Health and Welfare tightened regulations at incinerator sites and the incinerator was closed.
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