Takefuji founder faces three years for wiretap

Prosecutors demanded a three-year prison term Thursday for former Takefuji Corp. Chairman Yasuo Takei and a 1 million yen fine for the company on wiretapping and defamation charges.

Takei, 74, founder of the major consumer credit company, pleaded guilty at an earlier session of his Tokyo District Court trial to having ordered a subordinate to bug the telephones of two freelance journalists who wrote articles critical of his firm, and ordering Takefuji to defame one of them on its Web site.

“I apologize again from my heart,” Takei said in his closing statement Thursday. He resigned as chairman in December, following his arrest.

The court is scheduled to rule Dec. 17.

Takei stands accused of ordering then Takefuji employee Kazuhiro Nakagawa, 43, to bug the telephones of journalists Shunsuke Yamaoka and Shoji Takao between December 2000 and February 2001.

“The accused resorted to illegal wiretapping to protect his and Takefuji’s interests, and his self-righteous motives ignore law and order,” the prosecutors said in their statement demanding the prison term.

Takei’s defense team asked for leniency, arguing that he resorted to wiretapping not for his personal interests but to protect the company because its share price had been falling after the journalists wrote articles critical of Takefuji. The lawyers claimed Takei is repentant.

Nakagawa, a former customer service representative who owned up to conspiring in the wiretap with Takei, was handed a suspended three-year prison term.

Takei was also charged with defaming Yamaoka on the company’s Web site in June 2003 after the journalist filed a criminal complaint with police against him, claiming the founder had wiretapped his phones.

Takei had ordered the company to write a message on the site, claiming that he never ordered a wiretap, that the criminal complaint was in itself extremely malicious and that the tape submitted by the journalist to police as evidence could have been fabricated.