Japanese police have arrested a Nigerian man and five Japanese over an alleged money laundering racket involving transfers of around 700 million yen (US$6.03 million; EUR4.4 million) via suspected crime syndicates abroad.
Police in Saitama prefecture near Tokyo detained Nigerian restaurant operator Felix Steve Asabor, 40, his Japanese wife Eriko, 42, and four other Japanese on suspicion of defrauding financial institutions, a police official said on customary condition of anonymity.
The arrests on Sunday came after a team of investigators went to the U.S. where they confirmed with the FBI that the transferred money represented "profits from crimes," the official said.
The amount involved is believed to have been the largest ever identified by Japanese police in connection with money laundering, he said, and was obtained through forged checks and fake investment swindles.
Since 2005 the gang had opened about 40 accounts with several financial institutions in Saitama and Tokyo, the police official said. Asabor is suspected of later withdrawing the money deposited in the accounts and transferring most of it to suspected crime syndicates in several countries, including Canada, China and the United States, via another Nigerian in Japan, the official said.
Japanese financial institutions have stepped up their monitoring of international and domestic fund transfers in recent years, checking the identities of people shifting even relatively small amounts of money as part of a broad effort to stop the flow of money to terrorists.