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    The Asahi reports that a broker/fixer type who connects Japanese enterprises with investment opportunities in North Korea is being investigated by the Tax Bureau:

    Tax authorities plan to order an executive of a nongovernmental organization that offers humanitarian assistance to North Korea to pay back taxes on “fees” he collected from his side businesses, he said.

    Hiroyuki Kosaka, 56, head of the secretariat for Tokyo-based Rainbow Bridge, told The Asahi Shimbun that the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau suspects he concealed about 240 million yen in income over several years until 2007.

    But Kosaka said the money collected from Japanese companies as “advanced investments” for future business with North Korea was offered to the secluded country or used as tax-exempt expenditures.

    “I cannot agree (with the tax authorities). I will fight them thoroughly (in court),” he said.

    The authorities informed Kosaka’s accountant that he could face orders to pay between 100 million yen and 200 million yen in back taxes and penalties.

    “I offered the commissions to North Korea or used them as (part of tax-exempt) expenditures. So I have not obtained any income from them,” Kosaka said.

    Although North Korea’s latest missile launches and nuclear test have heightened tensions with other countries, including Japan, many Japanese companies see future business opportunities with Pyongyang, particularly in the fields of rare metals, gravel, infrastructure construction and matsutake mushrooms. Such deals require middlemen like Kosaka.

    Kosaka’s group is not the same as Chongryun, the most well known advocacy group for North Koreans in Japan, which has long been suspected of working semi-covertly for the DPRK regime. Also of long standing is the hope that North Korea will liberalize its economy even a little bit, which could enable established Japanese companies to have access to its untapped markets and resources. Of course, Pyongyang has a record of taking invested money and equipment and, essentially, nationalizing it, so such maneuvers would not be without risks.

    I’m very amused by the phrase “particularly in the fields of rare metals, gravel, infrastructure construction and matsutake mushrooms.” That’s a pretty eclectic list.

    The ROK newspaper Chosun Ilbun is reporting that U.S. reconnaissance satellite images indicate the DPRK may be moving a long-range missile to the Musudan-ri launch site in its northeast, says the Nikkei. So maybe another ballistic missile test soon.

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