• Kyodo

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A former sales manager at a subsidiary of Nippon Meat Packers Inc. was sentenced Thursday to 2 1/2 years in prison, suspended for three years, for falsely labeling beef.

The Matsuyama District Court found Yoshinobu Igaue, 41, guilty of cheating the government out of 6.7 million yen in early November 2001.

He arranged the sale of about 9.5 tons of beef, including falsely labeled imported meat, through Nippon Meat Packers, better known as Nippon Ham, to obtain subsidies doled out by the government to offset losses related to mad cow disease.

Presiding Judge Masahiro Maeda said, “The defendant . . . bears grave responsibility for the crime as it betrayed the public trust in the entire meat-product industry, but he has shown remorse.”

Igaue ordered his staff at the Ehime regional office of Nippon Food Inc., a now-defunct subsidiary of Nippon Ham, to label some 4 tons of imported beef as domestic in October 2001. Igaue admitted to the charges and will not appeal the conviction, his lawyers said.

Three regional offices of the subsidiary were allegedly involved in the fraud involving the Nippon Ham group.

Igaue is the ninth person to be found guilty in a series of fraud cases arising from the government’s offer to buy domestic beef after sales plummeted following the discovery of the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Japan in September 2001.

Five employees of the now-disbanded Snow Brand Foods Co. and three Nippon Food employees, including its former president, have been found guilty.