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Former Takefuji Corp. Chairman Yasuo Takei pleaded guilty Tuesday to ordering a subordinate to wiretap two journalists — one who wrote an article critical of the lending company and one who probed the firm’s overseas activities.

In his first trial session before the Tokyo District Court, the 74-year-old founder of the consumer loan giant admitted violating the Telecommunications Business Law by ordering a Takefuji employee to wiretap the freelance writers between 2000 and 2002.

Takefuji President Akira Kiyokawa, who appeared in court as a representative of the company, also acknowledged the firm was responsible for the wiretapping.

Takei, who has been in custody since his December arrest, apologized to the journalists, Takefuji employees and shareholders for causing them trouble.

People who knew Takei and attended Tuesday’s session said he looked much older and weaker than before he was arrested, the same month he resigned as chairman.

“What my indictment says is true. I bear a grave responsibility for ordering (the wiretaps),” he said.

Kiyokawa said that what his former boss did should not be forgiven and pledged that the company will improve its “compliance” of the law to prevent further misdeeds.

In their opening statement, prosecutors said Takei ordered Takefuji employee Kazuhiro Nakagawa, 43, to bug the home telephone of journalist Shunsuke Yamaoka between December 2000 and February 2001 after Yamaoka wrote an article alleging Takefuji had been involved in stock manipulation.

In January and February 2001, Takei ordered Nakagawa to wiretap the office of another journalist who had investigated Takefuji’s alleged massive loss from stock transactions in Hong Kong, prosecutors said. Nakagawa owned up to the charge during his own trial.

Takefuji has 1,900 offices nationwide and posted 95.1 billion yen in group net profits in fiscal 2002.

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