The Tokyo District Court sentenced a “sokaiya” corporate racketeer to eight months in prison Monday for taking about 50 million yen in illicit payoffs from four Mitsubishi group companies.

Taichiro Otake, 56, is suspected of accepting money ranging from 12 million yen to 13.2 million yen each from Mitsubishi Estate Co., Mitsubishi Electric Corp., Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Asahi Glass Co. in violation of the Commercial Code.

Sokaiya extortionists purchase stock in companies to gain access to shareholders’ meetings. They then extort money from the firm by threatening to disrupt the meetings by revealing embarrassing information.

The Commercial Code bans corporations from giving payoffs to sokaiya. According to the ruling, the four companies gave Otake the money between February 1995 and August 1997 as a reward for not disrupting their annual meetings.

He accepted the money in the form of advertisement fees for brochures for a flight-attendant training school that his wife runs, the ruling says.

In handing down the ruling, presiding Judge Hisaharu Yasui said the crime was “habitual and professional, and caused significant damage to the companies.”

It is obvious that Otake took advantage of the fact that the four companies regarded him as an influential sokaiya, and that he demanded the payoffs, the ruling says.

Yasui criticized the four companies’ measures against the corporate racketeer and their dubious tie with sokaiya. The companies left the matter of dealing with the issue entirely in the hands of particular employees, who later gave in to Otake’s demands, he said.

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