Toshihiro Ono, the former chief of Recruit Co.’s presidential secretariat, was given a two-year prison term Sept. 17, suspended for three years, for selling unlisted Recruit Cosmos shares to two Diet members from 1985 to 1986.

Ono, 47, was found guilty of bribing former Lower House member Katsuya Ikeda, 60, and former Vice Labor Minister Takashi Kato, 67, on the orders of former Recruit board chairman Hiromasa Ezoe, 61. Ikeda and Kato have already been convicted for taking bribes in what is known as the Recruit scandal.

Handing down the sentences, presiding Judge Hideaki Mikami of the Tokyo District Court said the two attempted to steer Diet proceedings in a way that would promote Recruit and its interests, undermining public trust in the nation’s civil service.

The judge also said Ono complied with Ezoe’s orders even though he was aware the share deals were bribes. In mitigation, the ruling said Ono’s position was such that he had to comply with Ezoe’s orders. Ezoe is on trial separately for the Recruit deals.

The judge added that, as a result of purchasing the Recruit Cosmos shares, Ikeda reaped about 11.35 million yen in profit and Kato about 6.95 million yen.

Regarding the hotly disputed point of whether the share deals were equivalent to bribes, the court ruled that Recruit had asked Ikeda to pose questions in the Diet that would be beneficial to the firm. It also said that as Ono attended board meetings, he was aware that Recruit had benefited when Kato helped postpone a government restriction on publishing job information magazines — Recruit’s main products.

The ruling concluded that because the involved parties knew that the price of Recruit Cosmos shares would rise, they were aware that selling the shares constituted bribery. The judge also rejected an assertion by Ikeda’s attorney that their client had not accepted the shares because they were delivered first to an intermediary. He ruled that it is clear Ikeda accepted the shares and that he knew they were bribes.

According to he ruling, Ono sold 5,000 unlisted Recruit Cosmos shares to Ikeda in September 1986, in compliance with Ezoe’s orders. In return, he would pose questions in the Diet that would benefit Recruit. Ono was also found to have delivered a total of 7 million yen to Ikeda during the period from June 1985 through May 1986.

After hearing the ruling, Ono said he was angered because he had been fighting the case for a long time in the firm belief that he would be exonerated. He said he would decide whether to appeal after consulting his attorneys.

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