• Kyodo

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Two former executives of Sasebo Heavy Industries Co. received suspended prison terms Wednesday for bilking the government out of 377 million yen in grants by falsely claiming the shipbuilder had retrained employees.

Arifumi Himeno, 64, who stepped down as president of the company on the day he was arrested last June, was sentenced to a three-year prison term, and Yukio Mizuhiro, 54, who was deputy director of the company’s shipbuilding yard in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, was given a two-year term, with both terms suspended for three years.

The Nagasaki District Court said the two applied for the money through the Nagasaki Prefectural Government by falsely claiming the company retrained workers between 1999 and 2001.

They then used the government’s job-retraining aid to trim the company’s operating losses, the court said.

Presiding Judge Keizo Yamamoto said the fraud was a “systematic and large-scale crime committed by the company as a whole.

“It was malicious, as the company fraudulently obtained money out of funds for use in jobless allowances and other employment measures.”

Himeno and Mizuhiro had pleaded guilty but claimed they committed the crime to serve the needs of the time.

Prosecutors had demanded prison terms of three years for Himeno and 24 years for Mizuhiro, describing the fraud as a systematic corporate crime.

Following the ruling, Fujio Okamura, general affairs chief of the Sasebo shipyard, said, “We take the court decision solemnly and will devote ourselves entirely to restoring trust.

“To prevent a recurrence, we have set up ground rules for our business activities (along with other steps).”

The prefectural government filed a criminal complaint against the company last March, saying it had applied for retraining subsidies for about 530 employees and received 151 million yen in December 2000 and 226 million yen a year later.

Himeno announced his intention to resign when he admitted the fraud last March. His resignation was approved at a general shareholders’ meeting in June, just hours before his arrest. Mizuhiro resigned last April.

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