Authorities investigating Ajinomoto Co. over alleged payoffs to corporate extortionists suspect that the company included the payments as “entertainment expenses” in its annual budget, informed sources said Mar. 12.

The money was allegedly used to pay extortionists not to disrupt the company’s shareholders’ meetings. Two officials of Ajinomoto, Takao Ishigami, 48, chief of a section responsible for stifling trouble during the meetings, and Yukio Noguchi, 60, chief of the general affairs department, were arrested Mar. 11 along with six “sokaiya” extortionists on suspicion of exchanging several million yen in violation of the Commercial Code.

Ishigami and Noguchi are accused of providing several million yen to the six racketeers, including Shozo Nakamura, 47, head of a racketeer group, after the company’s shareholders’ meeting last June 27 ended in 32 minutes without trouble, investigation sources said. Investigators suspect that Ajinomoto provided Ishigami with huge amounts of money and then listed the funds in its budget as “entertainment expenses” for Ishigami, the sources said.

Ishigami’s entertainment expenses started topping several 10 million yen a year in around 1989, eventually reaching as much as around 100 million yen a year over the past several years, according to the sources. Investigators suspect that Ajinomoto turned a blind eye to Ishigami’s ballooning entertainment expenses and set their budget in accordance with expenditures.

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