• Kyodo

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The Mito District Court on Thursday sentenced two men to prison terms for smuggling and distributing large amounts of fake Japan Tobacco Inc. cigarettes.

When sentencing 52-year-old Tsuneo Iioka to five years imprisonment, the presiding judge, Eiji Murata, described the crime as “vicious” and an “infringement of consumers’ rights and social trust in JT.”

Iioka, whose sentence was one year short of what prosecutors demanded, was also fined 2.42 million yen. Considered the main culprit, Iioka is the owner of an orthopedic clinic in Yachiyo, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Meanwhile, accomplice Shiro Nakayama, 48, was sentenced to two years in prison, six months short of what prosecutors had demanded.

The two men, both residents of Yachiyo, were charged with smuggling the bogus cigarettes into Japan from China and selling them in violation of the Trademark Law.

According to the ruling, Iioka smuggled 286,000 cigarettes in May 2000 under two popular brand names from China’s Fujian Province. The brands — Mild Seven Lights and Seven Stars — are among JT’s best-selling products.

The following month, Iioka conspired with Nakayama to sell 65,000 of the bogus cigarettes, the ruling said.

Iioka and Nakayama are also charged with registering a fake marriage in June last year between a Japanese woman and their Chinese conspirator in a bid to obtain resident status for the man.

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