The Tokyo District Court handed a 39-year-old woman a suspended 18-month prison term Friday for harboring bail-jumper Heo Young Joong, a former real estate developer now on trial before the Osaka District Court for financially damaging the defunct trading firm Itoman Corp.
While on trial on charges of causing damage to Itoman, the 53-year-old Heo was permitted to visit South Korea in September 1997 to attend a memorial service. He disappeared there in mid-October and was only recaptured in Tokyo on Nov. 5, 1999.
Misako Kin was found guilty of reserving hotels and using false names to check in on Heo’s behalf between September and November 1999.
Handing down the sentence, Judge Manabu Kato said Kin’s conduct substantially delayed the investigation of an important case.
Kato said, however, he decided to give a suspended sentence because it was “understandable” that Kin would have wanted to help a person with whom she had an intimate relationship, and thus she deserves sympathy.
Heo, arrested in 1991, is on trial for allegedly causing at least 49.3 billion yen in losses to Itoman by dubious art deals between his firm and the Osaka-based trading house, which collapsed in 1993.
He pleaded innocent in April while being tried for allegedly getting Kin and another acquaintance to help him evade police. Jumping bail is itself not considered a crime under the Penal Code.
Heo is believed to be closely affiliated with Japan’s largest organized-crime syndicate, Yamaguchi-gumi, and with several politicians.