Big in Japan: Sisters hide billions of yen in their tool shed

Today in Japan, the tabloids are buzzing with the latest news of two sisters from the city of Osaka, who were arrested yesterday after hiding US$58 million from the tax man.

Now, I know you’re probably thinking to yourselves: “Did they hide all of that money under the mattress?’

Good question, but they actually kept all of the money in cardboard boxes and paper bags that were stowed away in a shed attached to their house!


According to prosecutors, the two sisters in question, Hatsue Shimizu and Yoshiko Ishii, inherited about 7.5 billion yen (or US$73 million) when their father, who owned a property and finance company, died in 2004.

In Japan, inheritance tax can take a serious chunk out of your assets, and this dastardly duo wasn’t about to lose their hard-earned money to the government.

So, rather than losing an estimated 2.86 billion yen (or US$28 million) of their newfound fortune, the free-thinking pair simply declared a small amount and stashed the rest.

Again, awesome.

So how will the story end? Keep on reading to find out!

Needless to say, governments tends to notice when wealthy businessmen die, especially when they’re considered to be industry leaders and property moguls.

So, the Japanese government wasn’t about to just sit pretty when their cut of the wealth never trickled back to them in the form of taxes.

It what must have been an amazing raid to witness – Japanese police officers stormed the home of these two little old ladies, and proceeded to tear the place apart.

The Osaka taxation bureau had previously made a list of ten possible locations where the money was stashed, but they weren’t prepared for the spectacle that unfolded.

In fact, not only was most of the money lying in a tool shed, but it was actually neatly arranged in plastic bags that were packed into cardboard boxes.

According to one tax official, “We have confiscated somewhere around 50 cardboard boxes.”

Indeed, this makes for some great visual journalism. For those of you without Japanese TV stations, think two sobbing old ladies, and a line of police officers hauling away boxes upon boxes of cold hard cash.

Anyway, let me be the first person to applaud these two women as you can’t help but feel sorry for them, especially since they’re bound to lose all of the money and face prison time.

Of course, if I was planning to skip out on inheritance tax, I’d like to imagine that I’d investigate somewhat more legit options, like a bank account in the Caymans, or at least a buried treasure chest.

But, I guess there’s nothing wrong with the tool shed method, assuming of course that your neighbor doesn’t need to borrow your hedge trimmers.

So, I guess this of course brings up my question for day: if you had millions and millions of dollars lying around, and weren’t too keen on paying taxes, where would you hide it?

** By the way, if the IRS is reading this, I filed my 2007 tax return on time, so no worries! **

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