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Friday, Nov. 18, 2005

'Loan shark king' faces payback

High court orders former mobster to forfeit 5.1 billion yen


Staff writer

The Tokyo High Court on Thursday overruled a lower court ruling and ordered "loan shark king" Susumu Kajiyama to pay 5.1 billion yen in forfeiture in a case of laundering money amassed in a massive usury network, but reduced his prison sentence by six months to 6 1/2 years.

News photo
Susumu Kajiyama

The Tokyo District Court said in February that Kajiyama's money-laundering operation stretched beyond national borders and there had never been a case "so malicious or wide-reaching."

The lower court sentenced Kajiyama, 56, to seven years imprisonment and fined him 30 million yen, but rejected prosecutors' demands for the defendant to pay an additional 5.1 billion yen in forfeiture. The high court upheld the fine.

By law, profits made through criminal activities can be seized by the state to prevent mobsters from putting the money back into their organizations.

However, victims' assets -- in this case their money -- are exempt from confiscation. They can get their money back by filing lawsuits.

In handing down Thursday's high court ruling, presiding Judge Atsushi Senba said that a literal interpretation of "victims' assets" in loan-sharking cases can make seizure legal in cases where the victim gives up the right to seek damages or where the perpetrator has already compensated the victim but with funds not specifically taken from them.

But this interpretation, made by the lower court, "will not only make nothing for the victims but also leave the illicitly gained money with the criminal," Senba said.

The judge added that in a large case like this -- many victims but few identified -- it should be left to the court's discretion to determine what constitutes "victims' assets."

In the same ruling, the high court also ordered two other key members of the loan-sharking ring, Hirokatsu Okuno and Toshikazu Matsuzaki, to forfeit 2.9 billion yen and 1.3 billion yen, respectively.

Both men had their prison sentences reduced to four years and six months from the original five years, but their fines -- 5 million yen for Okuno and 20 million yen for Matsuzaki -- were upheld.

In reducing the sentences, Judge Senba said he took into consideration that all three have been ordered to pay additional forfeitures, and that the defendants has owned up to the crimes, showed contrition and reflected upon their acts.

The trio were members of the former Goryokai, a group affiliated with Yamaguchi-gumi, the nation's largest underworld syndicate. They were convicted of hiding and laundering about 9.4 billion yen earned through criminal activities.



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