TOKYO: Japanese police have arrested two men and a woman in connection with alleged illegal money transfers to an Iranian shipping firm suspected of involvement in the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme, Japanese media said on Wednesday.
The three employees of Tokyo-based shipping agent Ben Line Agencies Japan deny the charges, the reports said.
Kyodo News Agency said the arrests were the country's first related to Iranian sanctions, quoting investigative sources.
An official at Ben Line Agencies Japan said the company had no comment on the reports.
The three employees are alleged to have transferred a total of 14 million yen ($158,000) to a Singapore-based firm associated with Iran's state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) in November 2011 and February 2012, without the necessary Japanese government approval, the Kyodo report added.
Japan introduced additional sanctions against Iran in September 2010 over its disputed nuclear programme, freezing assets of IRISL and associated firms and restricting foreign exchange transactions with them. Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.
IRISL, Iran's largest cargo carrier, has tried to dodge sanctions by changing its flags and setting up front companies, the U.S. Treasury and the EU have said. It has faced western sanctions for years based on accusations of transporting weapons, a charge it denies. ($1 = 88.5400 Japanese yen)