Mitsui Oil trader gets lighter sentence after fraud appeal

SINGAPORE (Kyodo) A Singapore high court reduced the jail sentence Monday of Noriyuki Yamazaki, a naphtha trader who masterminded a fraud that led to a S$81 million (US$57.9 million) loss at Mitsui Oil (Asia) Pte. Ltd.

Yamazaki’s sentence was cut to two years from five years by the appeal court.

Now 38, Yamazaki was a trading manager at Mitsui Oil (Asia), the Singapore subsidiary of Japanese trading house Mitsui Oil & Co., when he committed the offence in 2006.

He was charged with 10 counts of falsifying accounts to conceal huge trading losses and sentenced to five years in jail by a district court in February this year.

He started to serve his prison sentence soon after but also appealed to the high court.

High court Judge Choo Han Teck also cut the sentence of another one-time Mitsui Oil employee. Masatsugu Takahashi, 52, had his sentence reduced from three years to 18 months on appeal.

After the sentence reductions were announced, both men were allowed to meet for a few minutes with their families before being taken back to prison to continue serving their sentences.

Takahashi, who was executive vice president of the company’s middle and back office operations and responsible for risk management, had been accused of falsifying the trading accounts so it did not reflect the huge trading losses chalked up by his colleague Yamazaki.

He was originally accused of 130 counts of account falsification but the prosecution later proceeded with just 20 counts.

He was sentenced to three years jail in July by a district court.

A third employee, Takayoshi Wada, accused of conspiring with Yamazaki, who was his subordinate, was given five months in jail in May.

The huge losses led to the closure of Mitsui Oil (Asia).

Naphtha is a petroleum product used primarily as a feedstock in the petrochemical industry and at the time of the offenses, Mitsui Oil was a major player in the market, accounting for half the naphtha trades in Singapore.