Former Nomura Securities Co. President Hideo Sakamaki was handed a suspended one-year prison term Wednesday for conspiring to pay 370 million yen to “sokaiya” corporate extortionist Ryuichi Koike, the center of one of the biggest financial scandals to rock the nation this decade.

The Tokyo District Court ruled that Sakamaki, 63, violated the Commercial Code and the Securities and Exchange Law by giving the illegal payoffs to Koike, 55, who is being tried separately in the case.

Former Nomura executive Nobutaka Fujikura, 56, was also sentenced to a one-year term and colleague Shinpei Matsuki, 54, was handed an eight-month sentence. Like Sakamaki, both sentences were suspended for three years.

The court also fined Nomura Securities 100 million yen for violating the Securities and Exchange Law. Prosecutors had demanded one year in prison for Sakamaki and Fujikura, 10 months in prison for Matsuki and a 100 million yen fine for Nomura.

Sokaiya hold minor stakes in companies to gain access to shareholder meetings, and then attempt to extort funds from the firms by threatening to disrupt the sessions by making embarrassing revelations.

Wednesday’s ruling was the first sentence handed down to top executives of companies implicated in giving illegal payoffs to Koike — Nomura, Daiwa Securities Co., Nikko Securities Co., the now-defunct Yamaichi Securities Co. and Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank. Yamaichi, which suffered loss of market and investor confidence over the scandal, voluntarily shut down last March after huge off-the-book debts were revealed.

The four brokerages are accused of giving Koike some 690 million yen, while the DKB executives are known to have extended 11.7 billion yen in loans through indirect means to the racketeer.

Wednesday’s ruling is also the first guilty verdict handed to a corporate leader over illegal payoffs to sokaiya since the Commercial Code was revised in 1982 to ban such payments.

Judge Yuichi Okada said in his ruling that the nature of the crime is “vicious” because Nomura’s top executives were systematically involved in the case.

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