Japan Tobacco distributors in smuggling cases-report

Fri Nov 4, 2011 2:05am EDT

Nov 4 (Reuters) - A network of investigative journalists in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has said it has uncovered evidence of widespread cigarette smuggling by distributors of Japan Tobacco International (JTI), an arm of Japan Tobacco .

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project said it used access to internal company records, e-mails and interviews with former employees to uncover cigarette smuggling by distributors for the company in a dozen countries in the region.

Several members of JTI's own investigating team were fired after they uncovered the cases of smuggling, the OCCRP said in a report (here)

A spokesman for Japan Tobacco said the issue had been resolved.

"These matters have all been properly addressed and handled within JTI in line with our overall stance towards anti-illicit trade and my understanding is that it has been all solved or addressed already as far as JTI is concerned," said Hideyuki Yamamoto, a spokesman for Japan Tobacco, in Tokyo.

He said the information contained in the OCCRP report had been circulated for the past two years or so by people believed to have been fired by JTI.

The OCCRP report said JTI officials at its headquarters in Geneva declined to answer specific questions, but said a former employee was spreading false information.

(Additional reporting by James Topham in TOKYO; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Ed Lane)