Controversial Japanese investor target of FBI probe

SAN FRANCISCO -- The FBI confirmed Tuesday it is investigating Japanese financier Minoru Isutani, whose attempt to turn the legendary Pebble Beach Golf Course into a private club ended in failure last year.

FBI spokesman Rick Smith said the agency is probing the dealings of Isutani in an attempt to see if there is any substance to allegations he is involved in money laundering for an organized crime ring in Japan.


In December, a U.S. Senate subcommittee holding hearings on Asian crime syndicates cited Isutani's purchase of Pebble Beach as an example of money laundering in the United States by the gangs.

It is not the first time Isutani's name has been brought up in such a context. He drew attention several years ago when his application for a casino license was rejected by the State of Nevada Gaming Control Board.

However, no formal charges have ever been filed in the United States against Isutani and he has maintained his innocence.

Isutani, 53, owns the Los Angeles-based Cosmo World, a golf club and resort developer.

In 1990, he made headlines when he purchased Pebble Beach and its surrounding real estate holdings from Marvin Davis for $841 million. Isutani planned to finance the purchase by selling private memberships to the club and limiting public access.


Disclosure of the plan caused a public outcry from local residents, who claimed such a plan would deny them access to the Pacific Ocean. The complaints were brought before the powerful California Coastal Commission, which ruled Isutani could not go ahead with his plans.

Defeated, Isuitani was forced to sell Pebble Beach at a loss of $340 million in 1992.

The Japanese financier has run into trouble once again over plans to develop a golf course. This time the course was designed to be built in the Big Tujunga Canyon area of Southern California.

Delays in receiving approval for construction at the site have cost Isutani more than $20 million. Area residents have also vowed to fight the project every step of the way.

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