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Saturday, June 21, 2008
Ex-banker avoids prison over Chongryon scam
By JUN HONGO
The Tokyo District Court handed a suspended two-year prison term Friday to a former banker for his part in defrauding the pro-Pyongyang group Chongryon in cahoots with former Public Security Intelligence Agency chief Shigetake Ogata.
Koji Kawae, 43, was found liable for participating in an investment scam designed to swindle the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) out of the ownership of its Tokyo headquarters building.
His alleged accomplices, Ogata and Tadao Mitsui, a former realtor, have denied guilt in a separate ongoing trial.
In finding Kawae guilty, Judge Yoshimitsu Goda, presiding, stated the three "undoubtedly" conspired to take over the building by promising to pay ¥3.5 billion despite having no financial resources.
Kawae played a "subordinate role to his accomplices," the judge acknowledged, but noted the scale of the case constituted a serious crime.
Kawae did not immediately reveal if he would appeal.
The court said Kawae conspired with Ogata and Mitsui in April 2007 to take over Chongryon's building in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, by getting the group to turn over ownership.
Kawae, who was approached by the two, was asked to secure the financial resources but failed to find investors. The three then arranged to mislead Chongryon by telling it the payment would be made after the building rights were transferred.
Harvest, an investment advisory firm owned by Ogata, registered itself as the new owner of the headquarters last June but returned its rights after the scam unfolded.
The government has wanted to seize Chongryon's headquarters because of the huge debts it claims the group owes to Resolution and Collection Corp.