U.S. court tells MRI to leave assets be

Kyodo

A U.S. court has ordered MRI International Inc. and its president not to dissipate its assets, acting on a damages suit filed by Japanese investors who lost money entrusted to the asset management firm.

The District Court of Nevada issued the order Thursday in a decision on a damages suit filed by a group of 25 Japanese who claim they are owed $122.5 million from the Las Vegas-based investment firm.

It also ordered MRI International to disclose its asset information and relevant documents.

Lawyer Hiroshi Yamaguchi, who heads a group of Japanese attorneys advising the victims, told reporters the court order was an important decision and will serve as a foothold for recovering the losses.

Furthermore, the court ordered MRI International to stop destroying evidence, noting that a female secretary to MRI President Edwin Yoshihiro Fujinaga, 66, testified in court that in-house documents were disposed of around March.

The court turned down MRI International’s argument that the suit should be carried out in Japan because most of the investors were Japanese and their contracts were concluded there.

In April, the Japanese Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission opened an investigation into allegations that MRI International lied to investors and mishandled up to ¥130 billion in funds collected from about 8,700 clients.

It was de-registered as a financial instruments firm in Japan in April as the probe progressed.

On Thursday, MRI International said its cash assets stood at some $59 million (about ¥5.9 billion) and that it has failed to pay back some $122.5 million to the investors. The number of Japanese plaintiffs has meanwhile climbed from the original five to 25.

In May, the lawyers filed letters of criminal complaint with Tokyo police and prosecutors against Fujinaga on suspicion of fraud and of using fraudulent means in violation of the financial instruments and exchange law.