Wednesday saw Japanese police arrest two men and one woman for sending money to an Iranian shipping company in violation of sanctions against the middle eastern nation. The funds are believed to have been wired to a firm that is involved with the Islamic Republic’s nuclear weapons program.
The three suspects, who themselves work for the Ben Line Agencies Japan shipping company, have denied the charges. Officials from the Tokyo-based company have declined to comment on the incident, but investigators say these are Japan’s first arrests made in relation to sanctions on Iran. The three employees are believed to have sent 14 million yen (approx. $160,000) in total to a Singapore-based company with known connections to the government-backed Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL). Split over two transfers, one in November 2011 and another in February 2012, the funds were sent with the approval of the Japanese government.
While Iran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, Japan joined the international community in September 2010 by imposing additional sanctions. The assets of IRISL and any associated firms were frozen, and any foreign exchange transactions with such companies became prohibited. The United States Treasury and the European Union say IRISL tries to evade sanctions by changing flags on its ships and setting up a number of front companies in other countries, but the western nations continue to believe it is used for transporting weapons.