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Saturday, Jan. 27, 2007
BOAT-ROCKING TYCOON FEELS SET UP
Horie ends trial in defiant, tearful plea
By JUN HONGO
Livedoor Co. founder Takafumi Horie broke into tears during the closing arguments of his high-profile trial Friday, claiming prosecutors lacked impartiality and overlooked evidence in their drive to have him found guilty.
The one-time Internet business icon, arrested last January for alleged violations of securities laws, has maintained his innocence throughout his Tokyo District Court trial.
But during his final remarks before the judges, which lasted 10 minutes, Horie unexpectedly began shedding tears as he made his statement.
"I worked so hard for the public and myself after the company was established. The investigation and arrest came out of the blue," he said as he wiped away his tears. "Spending 90 days in custody was hard."
Horie declared his innocence and said he hoped for a fair verdict.
But he had sharp words for the prosecutors, whom he said "did not do what they should have done, which was to make sure justice was served." He added that he felt they were overzealous in their efforts to bring him to trial and get him convicted.
He noted that the usual practice is for securities officials to question people suspected of white-collar crimes, and then subsequently carry out searches. In Livedoor's case, there was no forewarning when prosecutors raided his company, causing the Nikkei average on the Tokyo Stock Exchange to nosedive last January.
"I feel that such conditions will make future business leaders shy away from attempting something new," he said.
Presiding Judge Toshiyuki Kosaka said the ruling will be handed down March 16.
During most of Friday's session, Horie, 34, dressed in dark suit and tie, appeared self-assured and put blame on his former subordinates for any misdeeds at Livedoor and claimed he was framed.
Horie's lawyers submitted a 509-page document rebutting the prosecution's allegations. They maintained that their client was innocent of all charges and that prosecutors ignored objective evidence.
The former Livedoor president stands accused of ordering four senior Livedoor executives to report a pretax profit of 5 billion yen for the business year through September 2004 instead of the company's actual loss of 300 million yen.
The indictment alleges that in addition to window-dressing, Horie also tried to manipulate the market by announcing false information on the takeover of a publisher by Livedoor affiliate Livedoor Marketing to ramp up the firm's stock price.
Prosecutors in December demanded a four-year prison sentence for the upstart entrepreneur, claiming there is a "significant possibility that he would commit similar crimes, next time more ingeniously."
Prosecutors also argued that Horie lacked a law-abiding spirit and masterminded the deception of stockholders and investors without remorse.
"These were extremely vicious crimes that were committed in an attempt to gain company profit," prosecutors' statements alleged in previous sessions, also noting Horie still holds a personal fortune of over 10 billion yen and may commit similar business crimes in the future.
Horie denied the charges at all 27 court sessions, arguing he wasn't aware of financial misdeeds conducted by former Livedoor Chief Financial Officer Ryoji Miyauchi and his other subordinates.
Miyauchi, who has pleaded guilty, and his like-minded codefendants being tried separately, have testified for the prosecution that Horie had direct control over financial decisions at Livedoor.
"It has been revealed in past sessions that Miyauchi and (Livedoor Finance Co. President Osanari) Nakamura privately used company assets behind the defendant's back," Horie's lawyers said in their statement Friday, hinting again that the misdeeds were committed by Horie's former right-hand men.
Miyauchi, Nakamura and two other ex-Livedoor executives have pleaded guilty to securities fraud.
Prosecutors claimed their testimony was trustworthy in comparison with Horie's claims, which they say "conflict with the evidence."
Horie, free on 300 million yen bail, began receiving media attention when Livedoor tried to buy the Kintetsu Buffaloes baseball team in 2004 and staged a takeover bid of one of Japan's major broadcasters, Nippon Broadcasting System Inc., a year later.