A 52-year-old former moneylender was sentenced Tuesday to death for murdering two men and attempting to murder a third for life insurance payouts.
Presiding Judge Masaki Wakahara of the Saitama District Court ruled that Shigeru Yagi, who had three female accomplices, instigated the crimes.
“(Yagi’s) actions can only be described as bestial, as he did not treat humans as humans,” the judge said.
The sentence met the demands of prosecutors.
Yagi, a resident of Honjo, Saitama Prefecture, had pleaded not guilty, stating he never considered murdering the men and had never instructed anyone else to do so.
He questioned the credibility of statements given by his accomplices and maintained the victims either died by accident or committed suicide.
He immediately appealed the ruling.
The three accomplices had earlier been convicted after pleading guilty to the charges leveled against them.
Mayumi Take, 35, was sentenced to life imprisonment; Analie Sato Kawamura, 37, was sentenced to 15 years in prison; and Takako Morita, 40, was handed a 12-year term.
According to the ruling, Yagi conspired with the three women to kill Shuichi Sato, a 45-year-old man on whom the conspirators had taken out a life insurance policy, by having him eat a sweet-bean bun poisoned with aconite on June 3, 1995.
They defrauded an insurance company by collecting a 302 million yen life insurance payout on Sato in July and August the same year, according to the ruling.
The four also conspired to murder Akira Morita, 61, by giving him doses of cold medicine mixed with poisonous substances and sake between August 1998 and May 29, 1999, the date of Morita’s death.
With Yagi having arranged a bogus marriage between Morita and Takako Morita, a life insurance policy was taken out on Morita in which the woman was designated as the beneficiary.
In 1998 and 1999, Yagi, Take and Kawamura also tried to murder 41-year-old Fujimi Kawamura in the same manner as Morita, according to the ruling.
Fujimi Kawamura, who was involved in a bogus marriage to Analie Sato Kawamura, was admitted to a hospital a day after Morita’s death.
Prosecutors alleged that Yagi had organized insurance policies worth a combined 1.4 billion yen on Sato, Morita and Kawamura but had only managed to collect on Sato.
The investigation of Yagi and his accomplices attracted huge publicity. The former moneylender held a series of news conferences at a bar he ran, charging journalists admission.