Disgraced former Sogo Co chairman Hiroo Mizushima was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of concealing personal wealth to avoid seizure by creditors, police said.

Mizushima, 89, was arrested in his hospital room late Friday night for obstruction of official duties. He was taken from the Tokyo hospital where he had been since Wednesday after complaining of heart problems.

He was moved to a police hospital for questioning early on Saturday, police said.

His lawyers criticised the arrest in the media on Saturday. "He could barely talk. I can't believe how the police arrested him," Mainichi Shimbun daily quoted one of his lawyers as saying after he visited Mizushima at the police hospital.

His arrest comes about 10 months after the failure of the Sogo department store empire he built up.

Sogo filed for court protection from debts of 1.87 trillion yen ($15.51bn) last July, rattling the domestic finance industry with the first in a series of major Japanese bankruptcies.

Police said that the day before Sogo applied for protection from creditors on July 11, Mizushima withdrew some 700m yen from accounts in his own name to prevent them from being seized. Mizushima has denied the accusations, saying that he withdrew the money to pay legal fees.

At the time of Sogo's collapse, Mizushima was acting as a guarantor for loans extended to Sogo by the Industrial Bank of Japan. He hid his money to prevent the Tokyo District Court from ordering that it be used to repay these loans.

Sogo is currently undergoing reconstruction under the wings of Seibu Department Stores Ltd.