- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2007

TOKYO (AP) — The former head of Japan’s intelligence agency was arrested yesterday on fraud charges involving a land purchase from a pro-North Korea group that he had monitored, officials said.

Prosecutors accused Shigetake Ogata of registering fraudulent documents involving the $29 million purchase of the headquarters of the General Association of Korean Residents through a dummy company. They said Mr. Ogata pressured the debt-ridden group into signing the land ownership change on May 31 knowing he would not be able to pay the money.

Two real estate executives were also arrested in the case.

Mr. Ogata, 73, is the former chief of Japan’s Public Security Intelligence Agency, whose duties include surveillance of North Korean activities in Japan. He retired in 1997.

There was no indication so far that Mr. Ogata used information from his intelligence career in the land purchase or that the case posed a security threat to Japan. Kyodo News agency said prosecutors were having financial crime specialists investigate the case.

Mr. Ogata denied wrongdoing when prosecutors raided his home and offices two weeks ago, saying his purchase was intended to protect the association’s property from being seized because it serves as North Korea’s de facto embassy here.

If formally charged and convicted, Mr. Ogata could face up to 10 years in prison.

Japan has been cracking down on the pro-North Korea group, also known as Chongryon, as part of an effort to increase pressure on the communist country over its nuclear weapons programs and past abductions of Japanese nationals.

On June 18, the Tokyo District Court approved an auctioning of the Chongryon property. Hours before the ruling, Mr. Ogata scrapped the land transaction and returned the ownership to Chongryon.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called Mr. Ogata’s arrest “extremely regrettable.”

About 200,000 pro-North Korean residents live in Japan, including many who were forcibly brought here during World War II.

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