Photo/IllutrationMillions of yen in cash withdrawn through a suspicious money transfer scheme (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Two Japanese company executives were arrested March 28 on suspicion of fraud and concealing criminal revenues, with police seeking a possible connection between the pair and a Nigerian crime organization.

Yoshitake Kurita, 53, of Tokyo, and Kimio Kawase, 58, of Osaka, are alleged to have withdrawn money obtained through a business e-mail scam that has spread globally, the Metropolitan Police Department announced the same day.

The pair are believed to have conspired with a still-unknown third party in September 2016 to take over the e-mail address of the president of a company based in Saint Christopher and Nevis, an island nation in the West Indies.

The suspects are believed to have sent an e-mail from the address to the Swiss bank used by the West Indies firm with instructions to transfer about 110 million yen ($998,000) to an account at a shinkin bank in Tokyo's Adachi Ward held in the name of the company where Kurita was an officer.

Sources said the two withdrew the transferred money and concealed it.

Although the two have admitted to the crime, police are looking into a wider connection with a Nigerian group known as Black Axe.

The Metropolitan Police Department has cooperated with the FBI since last year to try to uncover the organization involved in a string of cases.

Last year, the department nabbed two Nigerian men living in Osaka who are believed to have used a similar ploy.

In that case, the e-mail addresses connected to companies in Thailand and the United States were taken over and e-mails were sent with instructions to transfer payments to an account at a regional bank in Sendai.

Sources said the account was held in the name of a Japanese male residing in the city. Following the instructions of the two Nigerians, the man withdrew the money, placed it in a suitcase and delivered it to the two at Kansai International Airport. On other occasions, the Sendai man transferred the money to another account.

Police believe the two Nigerians took the money with them on their frequent trips back home. Investigations into them led to suspicions that the Black Axe organization was somehow involved.

According to police sources, Black Axe is suspected of not only e-mail scams, but also being involved in prostitution and drug smuggling.

Sources said bank accounts in Asia, including China and Hong Kong, are frequently used as destinations for the money transfers to take advantage of the time difference, the aim being to withdraw the money from the Asian bank accounts before the victimized companies in the United States and elsewhere in the West become aware of the suspicious transfers.