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OSAKA — Public prosecutors said Thursday that they have arrested a former employee of trading house Yuasa Trading Co. and two executives of a machinery company on suspicion they swindled firms out of more than 20 billion yen by forging contracts using Yuasa’s name.

Shinya Takeuchi, 42, a former section chief at Yuasa Trading’s Kansai branch, was arrested on suspicion of fraud. Also arrested were the president and an executive of Osaka-based Technical System Co., according to the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office.

The trio allegedly defrauded several dozen companies out of a total of 22.2 billion yen, including 750 million yen from a leasing company.

According to prosecutors, the firms were told by the suspects that the money would be used to buy machines from Technical System. In turn, they were told, the machines would be leased to Yuasa Trading.

Using a copy of the head of the Kansai branch’s seal, the suspects signed leasing contracts with the firms, according to investigators.

The companies then made payments on more than 100 occasions between early 1997 and September 1999, they said.

The 22.2 billion yen paid is still owed by Yuasa Trading to the defrauded companies.

The case came to light in October 1999. The trading house fired Takeuchi in January and filed a criminal complaint with prosecutors in February.

Takeuchi told a Yuasa Trading in-house team that he invested the money in companies managed by his associates, according to industry sources.

Yuasa Trading, which specializes in machinery, is listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The company has a history dating back to 1666.