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MRI faces criminal complaint over losses

Bloomberg

Japanese clients of MRI International Inc., a U.S. investment company suspected of mismanaging assets, filed a complaint Thursday with Tokyo prosecutors and police alleging fraud.

The complaint against Edwin Fujinaga, president of Las Vegas-based MRI, was filed with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Metropolitan Police Department, according to a group of 60 lawyers led by Hiroshi Yamaguchi.

Regulators last month stripped MRI of its registration to operate in Japan after finding that it failed to properly manage assets and falsified business reports. As much as ¥130 billion in client funds may be missing, the Nikkei financial newspaper reported last month.

The lawyers representing 1,472 Japanese clients of MRI also asked Tokyo investigators to examine whether the U.S. asset manager and Fujinaga violated Japan’s financial products laws, Yamaguchi said. Some 523 of the clients had invested at least ¥14.8 billion in MRI’s products, according to the statement.

“We will actively provide documents, so we want them to investigate promptly,” he added.

A phone call to MRI in Las Vegas outside of office hours reached an answering machine. A call to MRI’s Tokyo office reached a recorded message that referred inquiries to an external call center, which was unable to comment on the case.

The probe comes a year after the Financial Services Agency investigated asset managers amid allegations of fraud at Tokyo-based AIJ Investment Advisors Co., which lost more than ¥100 billion of clients’ money.

The Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission, the investigative arm of the FSA, said April 26 it had yet to identify MRI’s asset balance and the amount of money that the firm may have lost, adding that the firm’s inaccurate reports made it difficult to track the money flow. The U.S. firm failed to separate assets collected from clients from funds used to pay investment returns, the regulator said.