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September 16, 2009

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Pair charged over land scam

A JAPANESE businessman and his Chinese driver are accused of pretending to be employees of an operation company they falsely claimed was connected to the Shanghai 2010 World Expo to defraud 60 million yen (US$658,332) from a man.

Their victim was a Japanese businessman and they told him they were able to gain rights for the use of Expo land for commercial use at low prices, city prosecutors said yesterday.

Atsuya Awazu and driver Zhang Ming have been arrested and charged with contract fraud by the Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate Prosecutors' Office.

Awazu has worked in the city for more than seven years as a company director and met the victim four years ago.

During a meeting in April 2008, Awazu claimed he was employed as a consultant by an operation firm affiliated with the Expo when the victim said he wanted to do some Expo-related projects, prosecutors alleged.

Awazu said he could obtain commercial land rights for Expo areas at a favorable price and the victim could transfer these rights to Japanese exhibitors for considerable profit.

To win the victim's further trust, Awazu had Zhang pose as a director of the Expo operations.

Awazu also made false stamps for letterheads saying "Shanghai World Expo Operation Co Ltd" and "Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination," prosecutors alleged.

He then claimed he was entrusted to sell the usage rights to a 4,000-square-meter plot of land planned for Expo commercial use on Pudong Road S.

Awazu and Zhang "negotiated" with the victim several times before fake land-transfer contracts were signed with the victim on July 26, 2008, prosecutors said.

The victim then paid 60 million yen to Awazu's account and received a receipt from the so-called operations company.

Zhang later received a 50,000-yuan (US$7321) payoff from Awazu for his help, prosecutors said.

Because Awazu failed to provide a letter of authorization from the Bureau of Shanghai Expo Coordination, the victim could not recruit exhibitors in Japan. He frequently pressed Awazu for the official documentation.

Awazu promised to pay US$350,000 as penalty for breach of contract. He claimed the bureau was busy investigating a big case but the paperwork was on the way.

The victim asked a lawyer to inquire about the land transfer from the bureau in February and was told he had been duped by the pair.


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