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A 45-year-old man was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison for the 1996 murder in Yamanashi Prefecture of a Tokyo stock broker who had been his partner in a stock-fraud scheme.

Toru Odajima was sentenced at the Tokyo District Court for murdering Masaru Nishimura, 33, in February 1996. Nishimura worked as a broker at the Shibuya branch of Towa Securities Co., now Tsubasa Securities Co.

Prosecutors had demanded the death penalty. Odajima, whose trial began in April 1997, had pleaded not guilty.

Shortly after 10 p.m. Feb. 5, 1996, Odajima strangled Nishimura to death with a length of rope near a highway interchange in Kobuchizawa, Yamanashi Prefecture.

Odajima then stole Nishimura’s money and buried his body in a forest in Fujimi, Nagano Prefecture, north of Kobuchizawa along the same highway.

According to the ruling, Odajima killed Nishimura to get hold of 419 million yen that Nishimura had allegedly swindled from clients in a fraudulent-stock scheme that Odajima had devised around September 1995.

Judge Yuichi Okada said: “The crime was premeditated and well-prepared. The defendant tried to gain a huge sum of money without any labor and there is no room for leniency for such a cruel and outrageous crime.”

However, the judge felt there was some hope that Odajima could be rehabilitated and therefore decided against the death penalty.

Okada said there is “no room for reasonable doubt” that Odajima committed the crime, citing investigation results and his admission during police questioning to killing the stock broker.

When Nishimura disappeared, police opened a fraud investigation, believing he had fled with customers’ money.

They started questioning Odajima after they learned he was the last person to see Nishimura. The stock broker had also told acquaintances that if he disappeared, Odajima would know what had happened to him.

Odajima was arrested in November 1996 on suspicion of faking his own kidnapping, apparently to avoid police questioning in Nishimura’s disappearance.

The Metropolitan Police Department later served Odajima a new arrest warrant on suspicion of murdering and robbing Nishimura and disposing of his body, which was found buried near a villa that Odajima had rented.

Police began searching for Nishimura’s body after a woman admitted to accompanying Odajima to the villa to inspect the site before the murder.

Odajima initially said he had met Nishimura around the time of the murder but had only agreed to launder money for him and had not seen him since.

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