National

Seibu defendants admit pandering to 'sokaiya' demands

A former managing director of Seibu Railway Co. pleaded guilty Thursday to providing benefits worth 89 million yen to a corporate racketeer and his accomplices by selling company-owned land at prices well below market value in 2001, thereby violating the Commercial Code.

Nine other employees and former employees of Seibu Railway and a real estate affiliate implicated in the deal, as well as the racketeer’s five accomplices, all admitted that the transactions had taken place.

Two of the accomplices argued, however, that the prices at which they bought the land, all in Kanagawa Prefecture, were reasonable.

“Although I was trying to protect the company, I should never have given in to such antisocial forces,” Seiichi Ikura, 65, former Seibu managing director, told the opening session of the trial at the Tokyo District Court.

Ryuga Haga, a 74 year-old “sokaiya” corporate extortionist, did not appear before the court, citing poor health.

Others on trial Thursday included Norihiro Kanno, 60, former head of public relations and a board member at Seibu Railway; Masaru Kojima, 55, former head of the company’s real estate department and also a board member; Sadanori Kimura, 55, an employee at the firm’s property administration department; and Takeo Nishizawa, 62, former president of Seibu Real Estate Sales Co.

The five defendants from the corporate racketeer side were Kunihiro Kodama, 66, and Yohei Hayashi, 63, both secretaries of Haga, as well as real estate intermediary Toru Takagi, 63, and real estate company owners Minoru Uematsu, 57, and Minoru Sakemi, 63.

Prosecutors said the three real estate dealers, who learned that Seibu Railway had sold land at prices below market value to certain companies, decided that by asking Haga to be a mediator, they could effect similar deals.

Haga purchased 1,000 Seibu Railway stocks — just enough to be invited to company shareholders’ meetings. He then sent his aide to Seibu Railway’s headquarters, with the latter suggesting that the shareholders’ meeting the following year would be disrupted if the company did not comply with demands pertaining to the lucrative land deal.

Ikura gave in and sold three land plots.

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