The sometimes-reliable, always-sensational news magazine Shukan Post reports in their May 27th issue about a “vast tax evasion scheme” (巨額脱税工作) linked directly to A Bathing Ape’s Nigo. I very much doubt that this story would have made the magazine had Nigo not recently started to date popular model/actress Makise Riho, but the ultra-wealthy fashion capitalist has bought himself into the big time — which also means becoming fodder for extravagant headlines and closer media scrutiny.
Apparently, Japan’s Tax Administration Agency opened up an investigation last year on Nigo’s company Nowhere. From there, they began a compulsory investigation on a man the Post identifies only as Mr. A (A氏) who was allegedly involved in the financial management of the Ura-Harajuku brands. (This news also made the newspapers on the same day, so it feels like the Tax Administration Agency leaked it.) In the ’80s, Mr. A ran several successful tarento goods stores in Harajuku, but when the Bubble burst and the kids fled to Shibuya, Mr. A went bankrupt and moved overseas. He was called back to Japan by a “Mr. B” during the late ’90s “Harajuku revival.”
The Post refers to Mr. B as the “don of Ura-Harajuku” — i.e, the man who financed all the major streetwear brands, including Bape by acting a mediator between the young fashion designers and whoever it is providing the investment capital. Neither the Shukan Post nor the newspaper articles gave his name but gave his age. Mr. A worked for Mr. B’s consulting company “W” as a managerial adviser to the young Ura-Harajuku brand runners. According to the article, Mr. A helped these brands evade taxes through imaginary receipts and inflated orders — in three years, they hid ¥1,5 billion, which according to A’s friend “Hasegawa,” was given directly in cash to Mr. B in kickback money.
Nigo’s tax counselor happens to be an alumni of the National Tax Administration Agency, and according to him, the investigation is focusing only on Mr. A and not Nowhere.
In an interview with the Shukan Post at the end of the article, Mr. A proclaims his innocence and also takes the fall, saying that he just cheated Nigo, who knew nothing about the scheming.
To Nigo’s credit, the article does not give much proof that he directly participated in the tax evasion, but having said that, this is one of the first media attempts to investigate the long-standing rumors about the financial workings of the Japanese street fashion business. As with all pop culture in Japan, it’s nearly impossible to figure out who’s ultimately paying the bills.