JAPANESE PROSECUTORS RAID OFFICES OF FORMER TRUCKING EXECUTIVES

JAPANESE PROSECUTORS RAID OFFICES OF FORMER TRUCKING EXECUTIVES

Japanese prosecutors raided offices of two former executives of a trucking company Thursday in the first step of an investigation of what political sources say could turn into another huge political scandal.

The two men, Hiroyasu Watanabe, former president, and Jun Saotome, former general manager, of Tokyo Sagawa Kyubin, are believed to have doled out at least $4 billion in improper direct, indirect and guaranteed loans."Following our undercover operations, we have started our forced investigation," Takeo Takahashi, deputy chief prosecutor, told a news conference.

Mr. Takahashi said about 50 plainclothesmen from his Special Investigation Department were searching through a dozen buildings connected to the case.

About $800 million of the loans went to companies linked to gangsters, according to Sagawa spokesmen, while unconfirmed reports say the two used kickbacks to pay off more than 200 government and opposition politicians.

In separate raids in the same case, Tokyo detectives also searched the headquarters of Inagawa-kai, Japan's second-largest crime syndicate, police said.

"We will do our utmost in the Diet (parliament) to clarify the flow of money," said Atsushi Hashimoto, a spokesman for the Japanese Communist Party. ''This is bigger than Lockheed or Recruit," he said, referring to two earlier scandals in Japan.

Thursday's raids sprang from charges stemming from a breach of trust suit filed by Tokyo Sagawa Kyubin against the two men last July, after they were fired.

The company is an affiliate of Kyoto-based Sagawa Kyubin, Japan's second- largest parcel delivery and trucking group.

Sagawa Kyubin is a household name in Japan. Its parcel delivery trucks are adorned with the symbol of a traditional Japanese messenger running with a shoulder pole. It groups 141 transport-related companies, but its shares are not listed on any stock exchange.