Three employees at a unit of Japanese trading company Marubeni have been detained by Chinese authorities, the latest scuffle on China’s shores that comes mere days after the seizure of a Japanese container ship.
Chinese customs officials said the three Chinese nationals were detained in Shandong Province on suspicion of smuggling in an apparent investigation into tax payments on imported soybeans.
The employees were working for Marubeni’s local arm Columbia Grain Trading, focusing on soybeans and other related agricultural products. They were detained “a few days ago” but Chinese authorities had not explained why they were under investigation, the Japanese commodities trader said.
According to sources, the detention was prompted by allegations of tax evasion on soybean imports sold by the company to crushers in Shandong, on the northeast coast.
“The customs received a tipoff that the company was suspected of evading taxes and smuggling by using provisional prices,” said one trade source. One of the Marubeni employees being held is Zhang Wenjing, a trading executive with Columbia Grain, he added.
Over the weekend, authorities in Shanghai seized the Baosteel Emotion, a Japanese iron ore carrier owned by Mitsui OSK Lines at a port in Shengsi, Zhejiang province, over wartime compensation disputes.
The melee raised concerns of ever-fraying ties between China and Japan amid a bitter territorial row and historical contentions.
Reports came in today that the Japanese vessel was released after Mitsui agreed to pay 4 billion yen to Chinese claimants.
By Maesie Bertumen
Image: “20090808_85_02 Marubeni bldg. Honmachi, Osaka” by peter-rabbit/Flickr