Hiromasa Ezoe was found guilty Tuesday for his role in the Recruit scandal, which shook Japan’s political, bureaucratic and business circles in the late 1980s, making him the last of the 12 charged in the case to be sentenced.
When the trials started in 1989, all but one of the 12 defendants pleaded innocent. Fourteen years later, 11 guilty rulings have been finalized, while it is unknown whether Ezoe intends to appeal his.
Ezoe distributed pre-flotation shares of Recruit Cosmos Co., a real estate subsidiary of his Recruit Co., to dozens of political and business leaders as well as elite bureaucrats either to garner specific favors or to build personal relations.
The recipients were offered the shares as they were considered certain to rise in value when the company went public, virtually guaranteeing them hefty profits.
Investigators approached the scandal from four different angles, and the following is a summary of the major figures convicted via each approach.
In December 1994, New Komeito lawmaker Katsuya Ikeda was found guilty of receiving 3 million yen in checks and cash as well as 5,000 pre-flotation Recruit Cosmos shares in exchange for urging the government in a Diet committee to honor a gentleman’s agreement on job-hunting seasons, a practice that benefited the parent company, Recruit Co. Ikeda was given a suspended three-year prison term.
Takao Fujinami of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party was the other Diet member tried. In October 1999, the Supreme Court finalized the guilty ruling on Fujinami, who was convicted of accepting bribes in the form of 10,000 pre-flotation Recruit Cosmos shares in exchange for political favors extended while he was chief Cabinet secretary under Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone.
Fujinami, who insisted that he was “not aware” that the money given to him constituted bribes, was acquitted by a district court in 1994. But the ruling was reserved by the Tokyo High Court in 1997.
Despite the conviction by the top court, Fujinami continues to serve as a Lower House member as he received a suspended prison term.
In March 1992, Takashi Kato, a former administrative vice labor minister, was found guilty of accepting 3,000 shares of Recruit Cosmos in exchange for attempts to exempt a job-information magazine published by Recruit from government regulations.
In October 2002, the Supreme Court upheld the guilty verdict of Kunio Takaishi, a former vice education minister. He was convicted of accepting 10,000 Recruit Cosmos shares in exchange for favorably treating Recruit Co., including appointing an executive of the firm to an education ministry panel. He was given a 4 1/2-year prison term, suspended for four years, and fined 22.7 million yen.
Hisashi Shinto, who led the privatization of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. in the mid-1980s, was given a suspended prison sentence in 1990 for accepting Recruit Cosmos shares in exchange for favorably treating Recruit Co. in its phone-line resale operations. Shinto, 92, died of pneumonia in late January.
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