AIJ’s president again denies intent to defraud investors

by

Staff Writer

Kazuhiko Asakawa, president of scandal-tainted AIJ Investment Advisors Co., repeated Tuesday in his second appearance before the Diet that he had no intention of deceiving corporate pension fund clients, prompting criticism from lawmakers and other witnesses.

During his unsworn testimony before the Upper House Financial Affairs Committee, Asakawa admitted responsibility for AIJ’s investment failure but denied accusations that he had committed fraud.

The AIJ president said he did not mean to cover up the losses but had always wanted to offset them while avoiding reporting them.

“I have never intended to increase my private assets or make a profit for myself by tricking my clients,” he told the committee.

“I could not disclose (the losses) because I could not and should not end up making losses when I thought of the importance of pensions,” he added.

But Isao Watanabe, who testified as the head of corporate pension funds for construction firms in Tochigi Prefecture, which entrusted ¥4.5 billion to AIJ, slammed Asakawa’s claims.

“What happened was nothing more than fraud,” Watanabe told the committee.

In the same session, Hideaki Nishimura, president of ITM Securities Co., which is effectively under AIJ’s control, and Isao Ishiyama, a retiree of the now-defunct Social Insurance Agency and who currently operates a pension fund consultancy, reiterated they were not responsible for AIJ covering up its losses. Both Nishimura and Ishiyama, as well as Asakawa, previously attended a Financial Affairs Committee session in the Lower House on March 27.

Nishimura said he was informed of the coverup after the AIJ scandal was reported in February, although he had doubts about AIJ’s operations.

“It would be a lie if I said I wasn’t suspicious (about the coverup),” he said.

Ishiyama also denied any involvement in the scandal.

“I was in charge of pension funds consulting for AIJ. But I was not in charge of investment,” he said.

On March 23, the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission, which had inspected the troubled asset manager, raided the head office of AIJ and other locations to investigate how it came to lose massive amounts of pension money after fraudulently claiming high returns to investors.