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Thursday, Oct. 19, 2006
No prison for fraud, eHomes chief told
By JUN HONGO
The Tokyo District Court handed eHomes Inc. President Togo Fujita a suspended 18-month prison term Wednesday for falsifying financial documents to get licensed as a building inspector.
In handing down the sentence, which was suspended for three years, presiding Judge Tsutomu Aoyagi condemned the head of the defunct inspection firm for his "selfish" act and said it cannot be taken lightly.
However, Aoyagi ruled that the window-dressing was unrelated to the building safety fraud surrounding disgraced architect Hidetsugu Aneha, because there is no evidence to connect them.
Fujita, 45, expressed relief after the verdict was read and lauded the judges for rejecting the prosecutors' assertions that the window-dressing ultimately prevented Aneha's quake-data fabrications from being discovered.
"The essence of the quake-resistance fraud lies within the land ministry," Fujita said, referring to the flawed construction application certification system.
Fujita also apologized for breaking the law to get a license from the land ministry.
"I am sorry for what I did and I will accept the punishment," he said.
Fujita was convicted of window-dressing eHomes' books for the 2001 business year to make it appear that the firm had 50 million yen in capital instead of 23 million yen.
During the trial, it was revealed that Fujita paid 300,000 yen to an acquaintance to have 24 million yen transferred to eHomes and borrowed another 3 million yen from his mother to fulfill the government's minimum requirement of 50 million yen in capital needed for being a building inspector.
After he got the license, eHomes returned the money via several different bank accounts to disguise the window-dressing.
The Aneha scandal broke last November, shortly after Fujita reported the architect's misconduct to the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry in October. However, Fujita himself came under criticism because eHomes failed to detect fabricated data in the blueprints of 37 Aneha-designed buildings it certified.
The prosecutors, who were demanding a two-year term for Fujita, had claimed eHomes didn't have enough personnel for the type of work it was allowed to conduct and thus was destined to miss Aneha's fabrications.
Fujita was indicted in May for inflating his company's capital and owned up to the wrongdoing after his trial started in July.
He said to a Diet committee last November that it was impossible for eHomes to detect Aneha's falsifications because they were complex.
The land ministry revoked eHomes' inspection license in May and the company subsequently went out of business.