• Kyodo

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A former president of Fukuoka-based meat processor Nippon Shokuhin Co. and two of its former executives admitted in court Thursday that they were party to a beef mislabeling scandal.

In their first trial session before the Fukuoka District Court, former President Shigehito Atoyama, 51, and the two former senior officials admitted swindling a government-commissioned industry body out of some 136 million yen in subsidies in late 2001 by falsely labeling about 122 tons of imported beef as domestic.

The executives are Takeshi To, 70, a former auditor of the Fukuoka-based company, and Yasunori Yoshida, 55, a former sales manager.

Until his arrest in November 2001, Atoyama denied any wrongdoing, claiming he had no knowledge of the swindle.

The subsidies were paid under a buyback program instituted to help the beef industry after the outbreak of mad cow disease in domestic cattle in 2001.

Nippon Shokuhin filed for court protection from creditors on July 3 with liabilities of about 22.03 billion yen. The Fukuoka District Court approved a rehabilitation plan for the firm that began Aug. 23.

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