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Saturday, Nov. 18, 2006

Horie defiant at opening of prosecutors' questioning

Staff writer

Former Livedoor Co. President Takafumi Horie was defiant Friday as he faced prosecutors for the first time in his trial on charges that he gave the orders to pad the firm's 2004 financial report and lied about a takeover to boost his firm's share price.

Although the founder of the Internet services firm spoke calmly for most of the proceedings, he was clearly shaken by the prosecutors' line of questioning, which did not touch on the charges.

When asked what his duties were as chief executive officer, the 34-year-old began by saying it was "to work hard and to try to do my best in various fields."

Horie then told the prosecutors questioning him that they were trying to make him slip up and refused speak any more about his job.

"We just imitated companies in the U.S. and put CEO in my title to make it sound cool. There's no real significance to it," he said with a smile.

Prosecutors are trying to establish Horie as a selfish boss who was mainly interested in raising the company's market value.

The prosecutor questioning Horie told him he acted only in self-interest, giving his purchase of a business jet through an investment fund set up with money from Horie and Livedoor Finance as an example.

Horie countered that he was not self-centered and said the prosecutor should feel ashamed for saying such falsehoods.

The judge reacted immediately, telling him to behave.

Asked how Livedoor managed its mergers, Horie said it might have been one of his duties to understand the specifics of deals, but raised his voice to say that managing every section in the company was impossible.

Horie, whose trial began Sept. 4, has pleaded not guilty, saying he did not know about the illegal activities at Livedoor. During the trial, his lawyers have been placing the blame for the crimes on other former executives, particularly Ryoji Miyauchi, the former chief financial officer.

Horie continued this line of argument Friday, saying he was "aware of the company's rough (financial) picture" but had not had time to look at the details of what some of the people he trusted were doing.

Horie is on trial for allegedly ordering Livedoor's executives to fake a pretax profit of 5 billion yen to hide the firm's real loss of 300 million yen for the business year to September 2004. He is also charged with spreading false information on the takeover of a publishing firm in an effort to boost Livedoor's share price.

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The Japan Times

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