Livedoor Co. founder Takafumi Horie was back in the media spotlight Thursday, drawing a parallel between what he said was the unfair treatment he received from prosecutors and the recent indictment of a top aide to Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa.
“My life has been something of a roller coaster,” Horie said in English to the audience at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo. “I never imagined that I would be addressing you as a criminal defendant.”
Horie previously addressed the club as CEO of Internet service provider Livedoor and then as a candidate in the 2005 Lower House election, in which he failed to win a seat.
Though dressed as casually as ever in black hooded jacket and jeans, the former Internet startup icon struck a more modest tone than in past speeches.
Describing the 95 days he spent in detention after his arrest in January 2006 as “hell,” Horie said he thought prosecutors targeted him because he was famous.
“I came to realize that prosecutors are very keen on cost-effectiveness. They tend to select a target to investigate and then press ahead with charges,” he said, likening his own run-in with the law to the recent arrest and indictment of Takanori Okubo, the chief secretary of DPJ President Ozawa. Okubo is charged with accepting illegal donations from Nishimatsu Construction Co.
“Prosecutors say they are fighting major evil, but from my perspective they just try to catch celebrities with minor offenses,” he said. “It’s not that their targets are doing something very bad, but it’s because Ozawa’s secretary would attract public attention and that would benefit their promotion (within the organization).”
Horie criticized the lack of a grand jury system, such as in the United States, where the validity of an accusation is examined before trial, noting prosecutors in Japan have the power to both investigate and prosecute.
Horie took the opportunity to promote his latest book, “Complete Resistance,” in which he describes his failed attempts to acquire a baseball team and TV broadcaster, as well as his bid to enter politics, his 2006 arrest, his time in jail and the trial that followed.
The 36-year-old was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for falsifying Livedoor’s financial reports to make it appear the company made ¥5 billion in pretax profit when in reality it suffered a ¥300 million loss.
Out on ¥600 million bail, Horie is now appealing his case to the Supreme Court after the Tokyo High Court upheld the lower court decision.
“I believe that I am innocent, but even if I was guilty, I still feel that we have been treated unfairly,” Horie said, pointing out that no major firms found to have padded their profits after Livedoor have seen their executives arrested or have been removed as listed companies.
As an example, Horie cited major brokerage Nikko Cordial Corp., which was fined ¥500 million by the Financial Services Agency for padding profits but escaped being delisted.
Horie said the issues in question were very detailed accounting matters, and it took him three years to figure what led to the charges against him.
“It was something that only accountants can understand, but the prosecutors took it for granted that I knew what was going on,” he said. “But I’ve been charged for something that only accountants would know.”