Lawyer claims U.S. agents duped wrestler


TOKYO -- An attorney for a Japanese underworld leader on trial in Honolulu on drug and weapons charges charged Wednesday that U.S. drug agents used a popular sumo wrestler as an unwitting dupe in a 'sting' intolving a bogus Michael Jackson tour.

The Japan Sumo Association, stunned by the charge, said it would summon the wrestler, Salevaa Atisanoe, a Hawaiian, to discuss the matter within a few days.


The 511-pound Atisanoe, 22, who wrestles under the name Konishiki, is a rising star in Japanese sumo and among the national sport's most popular competitors.

The reputed underworld leader, Masashi Takenaka, is one of four members of the Yamaguchi-gumi 'Yakuza' crime syndicate arrested by Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Hawaii last year for allegedly attempting to smuggle drugs and arms, including a rocket launcher, to Japan.

Takenaka's lawyers have claimed the DEA entrapped him in a 'sting' involving the arrangement of a fictitious concert tour in Japan by singer Michael Jackson.

Defense lawyer Yukio Yamanouchi, in a telephone interview from Osaka, claimed Atisanoe was invited to a dinner with Takenaka on March 31, 1985, outside Osaka, 250 miles west of Tokyo.

Yamanouchi said the meeting was arranged by Hiro Sasaki, a former professional wrestler who cooperated in the undercover investigation and tried to approach Atisanoe as a means of convincing Takenaka of his connections.


Sumo wrestlers are well-known figures in Japan and underworld leaders often try to befriend them.

'I don't think he (Atisanoe) was aware of the circumstances,' said Yamanouchi, who travels from Japan to Honolulu for the trial proceedings.

'He was unwittingly used' in the sting, Yamanouchi said.

Atisanoe is currently competing in the spring sumo tournament in Osaka and was not available for comment.

His 'stable master,' Takasago, told Japanese news media Wednesday afternoon that the Hawaiian did meet with Takenaka but was angry at having been duped in the investigation.

'I feel very sorry for him because I think he was used as a tool,' he told the Kyodo News Service.

Sasaki, however, was quoted by Kyodo as saying 'I never used Konishiki in the sting. I only arranged for the encounter at Takenaka's repeated request.'

Yamanouchi claimed the wrestler also was introduced to a real estate dealer in Osaka, who allegedly played the role of a sponsor for the fictitious concert tour.

He said the wrestler also had dinner in Tokyo with a trading company executive who was another target of the DEA investigation, and that the sessions took place during Sasaki's third and last trip to Japan in cooperation with DEA agents.


He claimed Sasaki made two unsuccessful trips, first in 1980 and again in 1984, to approach Takenaka.

'Takenaka was finally cheated by a story of Michael Jackson coming to Japan,' Yamanouchi said.

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