Ohsho learned of shady transactions one month before president was slain: panel

Kyodo

A third-party panel that has been investigating a possible connection between the Kyoto-based Ohsho gyoza (dumpling) restaurant chain and a yakuza syndicate Tuesday released a report revealing the firm had been involved in improper transactions in the 1990s totaling some ¥26 billion.

The report said Ohsho Food Services learned of the transactions in November 2013, a month before then-President Takayuki Ohigashi was gunned down outside the firm’s Kyoto headquarters, but failed to disclose it.

The panel, set up in January, found that some ¥20 billion had been improperly paid in connection with transactions with the head of a certain company group in the 10-year period starting in the mid-1990s.

However, the report said the panel could not confirm any connection between the current management of Ohsho and organized crime.

Ohsho President Naoto Watanabe said Tuesday at a news conference that he does not recognize the corporate group as a part of a yakuza syndicate. But he refused to give any information on the corporate group, including whether the head is male or female.

Members of the panel said it is not their task to find out whether the corporate group is connected to the underworld.

Ohigashi was found lying in the parking lot in front of the firm’s headquarters on Dec. 19, 2013, bleeding from several gunshot wounds. Investigators found in December 2015 that DNA detected from articles found at the scene belonged to a man who is a member of a Kyushu-based yakuza syndicate, according to sources.

According to the panel’s report, the founder of Ohsho became acquainted with the corporate group head around 1977. Ohsho purchased from him real estate in Hawaii and in the city of Fukuoka, and lent money to him through its subsidiary. “The reasons and the economic rationality (of the transactions) are unclear,” the report noted.

Out of the ¥20 billion payments, the firm posted ¥17 billion as an extraordinary loss, the report said.

The panel found that Ohsho still has a telephone maintenance contract with the corporate group, which the panel says is “not rational.”