Senior immigration officer arrested on suspicion of corruption

A senior immigration officer arrested on suspicion of accepting bribes is believed to have told his briber to set up an office in Kawasaki as a front.

Arrested on suspicion of accepting bribes in return for favors in the screening of residence permits for female bar workers was Masashi Ogura, 54, a chief screening officer at the Narita Airport District Immigration Office. Also arrested on suspicion of bribery was Shingo Ito, 46, the president of a Shibuya company that accommodates overseas entertainers.

Ogura is accused of accepting a total of about 6 million yen from Ito between July 2007 and November this year, while he served in positions at the Yokohama and Narita Airport district immigration offices. Both parties have reportedly admitted to the allegations against them.

Police said that Ito’s company had mainly Filipino women come to Japan as dancers and singers and work at a pub that he operated in the Tokyo city of Fuchu. He also introduced them to other restaurants, investigators said. Ogura reportedly used immigration computer terminals to look up the criminal history and immigration logs of the foreign women that Ito was planning to bring to Japan, and leaked the information.

“He (Ogura) silently accepted the fact that there were false details on application forms,” Ito was reported as telling investigators.

On Friday police searched about 20 locations in connection with their investigation into the alleged bribery, including the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau.

Investigators suspect that Ogura had Ito set up an office under the jurisdiction of the Yokohama District Immigration Office. They said Ito had earlier heard from a man involved in the same type of business that screening at the Yokohama immigration office was lenient, and approached Ogura, treating him to meals and a round of golf.

Ito’s company did not have any business facilities under the jurisdiction of the Yokohama immigration office. To obtain residence permits at the office, the company applying must have a business facility under the office’s jurisdiction with at least five permanent employees. Ogura reportedly told Ito to get his “appearances in order” and set up an office in Kawasaki. The office had just one desk and no permanent manager.

It’s believed that tightened immigration procedures played a part in the pair’s actions. In the past, there were many cases in which women entered Japan on entertainment visas but ended up working as bar hostesses, which promoted immigration authorities to tighten screening of the places where they were working in 2005. According to the Justice Ministry, some 135,000 people entered Japan in 2004 as entertainers, but in 2005 the figure dropped to about 100,000 and in 2008 the number sunk to about 35,000.

Masahiro Tauchi, director-general of the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau, expressed regret over Ogura’s arrest.

“It is extremely disappointing that a worker has been arrested. We will thoroughly carry out an internal investigation and deal with the matter strictly,” he said.