• Kyodo

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The Sendai District Court on Thursday handed a suspended prison term to a former senior official of Marubeni Chikusan Corp. for defrauding consumers by labeling imported chicken as prime domestic poultry.

Akihiro Yoshikawa, 47, former chief of Marubeni Chikusan’s Tohoku regional marketing department, was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for three years. Prosecutors were seeking a two-year term.

The court also gave suspended prison terms to six other former officials at Marubeni Chikusan’s offices in Sendai and Sapporo for fraud and violations of the Unfair Competition Prevention Law, which bans misrepresentation of product origins.

Marubeni Chikusan is a Tokyo-based subsidiary of Marubeni Corp., a major trading house.

The court ordered Marubeni Chikusan to pay 36 million yen in fines and a meat-packing company in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, which repackaged the meat, to pay a fine of 3 million yen.

Prosecutors had sought a 40 million yen fine for Marubeni Chikusan and a 5 million yen fine for the meat-packing company.

According to the ruling, the seven Marubeni Chikusan officials arranged to repackage and ship around 49 tons of Brazilian poultry in bags bearing “Domestic Chicken” labels between September 2001 and January 2002.

Presiding Judge Eiichi Homma said the crime was selfish and did not take consumers into consideration.

At the same time, he said the defendants had received a “social sanction” and that they were remorseful for the crime they had committed.