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Hiroo Mizushima, former chairman of the failed Sogo Co. department store chain, is suspected of concealing assets by illegally withdrawing some 155 million yen, investigative sources said Tuesday.

Police suspect Mizushima’s acts were aimed at preventing creditors, including Industrial Bank of Japan, from seizing his personal assets and are examining whether he should be charged with obstruction, the sources said.

Mizushima, 88, allegedly withdrew some 55 million yen from his deposit account at a regional bank branch in Tokyo in mid-July and about 100 million yen by canceling an investment trust at the same bank branch later that month.

The Osaka-based department store chain, saddled with 1.87 trillion yen in debts, filed for protection with the Tokyo District Court on July 12 and has since been scaling back operations both at home and abroad.

According to a registry book, Mizushima also sold land and a building next to his residence in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward to his brother-in-law in late June and registered the ownership transfer after Sogo filed for protection, the sources said.

Mizushima personally guaranteed 11 billion yen in loans extended by IBJ to Sogo to prepare for the launch of a Sogo outlet in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward.

Following Sogo’s effective failure, IBJ sought fulfillment of Mizushima’s obligation and was preparing to seize his personal assets. But the bank was unable to seize the 155 million yen and the real estate, according to the sources.

Other Sogo executives, including former Vice Chairman Moriichi Inoue and former President Kyoichi Yamada, also sold real estate to acquaintances or gave them away to relatives in August and September.

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