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15 years sought for AIJ chief, eight years for cohorts

Kyodo

Prosecutors on Tuesday sought 15 years in prison for Kazuhiko Asakawa, the president of fund manager AIJ Investment Advisors Co. who has been charged with defrauding 17 pension funds in Japan of about ¥24.8 billion between February 2009 and January 2012.

The prosecutors sought prison terms of eight years for his two co-defendants — Shigeko Takahashi, who served as his secretary and also as an executive at AIJ, and Hideaki Nishimura, former president of ITM Securities Co., an affiliate of AIJ.

They are also seeking a total of about ¥21.8 billion in fines from the three defendants.

Asakawa, 61, and Nishimura, 57, have pleaded guilty to fraud and violating the financial instruments and exchange law, while Takahashi, 54, has denied conspiring with them.

During Tuesday’s closing argument at the Tokyo District Court, the prosecutors said the defendants’ acts were heinous, noting that 11 of the 17 funds have been forced to consider disbanding due to the loss of their money.

They were arrested in 2012 over the alleged fraud involving huge losses of pension assets entrusted to AIJ.

Asakawa, a former manager at Nomura Holdings Inc., launched AIJ in 1989. By 2009 the company was struggling and started promising high returns to investors to keep afloat.

Over nine years to 2012, AIJ reported that it had generated profits of ¥2.7 billion, with Asakawa receiving an annual salary of ¥70 million as head of the company. He has repeatedly denied committing fraud for personal gain.

At the opening session of the trial in December, Asakawa said: “I apologize from the bottom of my heart to the pension funds and market players for causing serious trouble. But I never intended to gain profit for myself or for my company.”