A BRITISH newspaper says it has evidence suggesting Japan has bribed small nations to support its attempts to lift a 24-year-old moratorium on commercial whaling.
The Sunday Times said it found officials from St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Guinea and Ivory Coast willing to discuss selling their votes at the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
They admitted they voted with the pro-whaling grouping because of the aid they received from Japan, or because they were given cash or call girls.
The paper said Japan denies the claims and the ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement: "The government of Japan does not cover any cost of any other IWC member countries related to the IWC."
The sting was carried out ahead of a meeting of the IWC in Morocco this month at which Japan is expected to push its case for allowing more whaling.
Undercover reporters posing as representatives of a Swiss billionaire conservationist approached officials from pro-whaling countries and offered them an aid package to switch their vote.
During their negotiations, the officials revealed their Japanese support.
The top fisheries official for Guinea said Tokyo usually gave his minister a "minimum" of $US1000 ($1179) a day spending money during IWC and other fisheries meetings.
A top fisheries official for the Marshall Islands said: "We support Japan because of what they give us."
A Kiribati fisheries official said his country's vote was determined by the "benefit" it received in aid, and also said Japan gave delegates expenses and spending money at the IWC.
Meanwhile the IWC commissioner for Tanzania said "good girls" were made available for ministers and senior fisheries officials during all-expenses paid trips to Japan.