Osaka-based department store operator Sogo Co. sued 19 of its former executives Tuesday, demanding 1.796 million yen in damages for their decision to continue to pay dividends to shareholders when the company was in financial trouble.

The latest suit filed with the Tokyo District Court brings the total demands for damages against former members of Sogo’s board to some 11.25 billion yen.

According to Tuesday’s suit, former board members paid the dividends on three occasions: as August 1993 mid-term dividends, February 1994 end of year dividends and August 1994 mid-term dividends.

The plaintiffs claim these payments were illegal as they were paid when Sogo extended loans or guaranteed debts — totaling 550 billion yen — to group companies that had a capital deficit of 300 billion yen, as of February 1994.

The 19 defendants include the company’s former chairman, Hiroo Mizushima, 88, and former Vice President Yukio Nakazawa, 74, who hanged himself earlier Tuesday at his home in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture.

Nakazawa was also named in the previous two suits. Sogo officials said they will consult with their lawyers on whether Nakazawa will be removed from the defendants’ list.

Since late September, Sogo has filed two suits against its former executives demanding they pay a combined 9.454 million yen to compensate for the company’s losses, allegedly caused by fictitious deals with Cho-ompa Co., a Sogo affiliate, and a failed business project in Turkey.

The Sogo group, saddled with a debt of 1.87 trillion yen, filed for protection from creditors with the district court in July, and has been scaling back its operations in Japan and abroad.

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