Three men from Tokyo have been arrested after after being suspected of selling off otherwise worthless forestry to buyers at over 1,000 times the actual market value.
In 2013, a woman in her 70s from Aichi Prefecture paid the men 16 million Yen (157,000 USD) in cash for a little over 500 sqm of forestry after they told her that she could profit from a rise in land value as there were plans to redevelop the land into an airfield to aid in the reconstruction of the disaster-hit areas. There were no airfield plans and the actual value of the land sold was closer to 16,000 Yen (157 USD).
The suspects are alleged to have collected as much as 400 million Yen from over 70 buyers of land in Nihonmatsu and Kawamata in Fukushima Prefecture. Buyers were told that the land in Nihonmatsu would soon be acquired by the government for an airfield, while the land in Kawamata would soon be redeveloped into a geothermal power plant. Victims lost between 1 ~ 54 million Yen. Both plots of land were located about 45 km north-west of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
The original landowner of the forestry in Nihonmatsu said he sold the land, which he could no longer use following the nuclear disaster, to a real estate company from Taito-ku, Tokyo, in July 2012 for 6 million Yen, or 90 Yen per square meter. The original owner of the land in Kawamata, sold his land to Shibuya-based real estate company ‘Win’ for 3 million Yen in late 2013.
It is possible that the men had access to a list of people who had previously been victims of other scams and called them up saying they could help the victims recoup their losses.
TBS, June 10, 2014.
The Nikkei Shimbun, June 11, 2014.
Mainichi Shimbun, April 7, 2014.