National

Ex-Kokumin chief won't go to prison

The Tokyo High Court on Wednesday overturned a lower court ruling and handed a former president of the now-defunct Kokumin Bank a suspended three-year prison term for aggravated breach of trust in connection with 9 billion yen in illegal loans he extended.

The high court suspended the prison term of Yukio Okonogi, 71, for five years after dismissing the 30-month actual prison term meted out Aug. 30, 2002, by the Tokyo District Court. Prosecutors had demanded a four-year prison term.

In handing down Wednesday’s ruling, presiding Judge Yu Shiraki recognized Okonogi’s efforts to improve the bank’s business after taking its helm and losing all his assets due to reimbursements in connection with the financial institution’s lax lending.

But the judge dismissed Okonogi’s plea of innocence, saying his “responsibility was grave in continuing to provide huge loans despite knowing they would become extremely hard to recover.”

Shiraki also said Okonogi has not shown remorse, citing his denials of irresponsible lending during the investigation into the case.

According to the court, Okonogi provided 9.05 billion yen in loans with virtually no collateral on 20 occasions between 1997 and 1998 to Kamiparesu, a company based in Mitaka, western Tokyo, that operates karaoke parlors, despite knowing the firm could not repay the money.

The court said Okonogi conspired with Hideyuki Suzuki, 70, former deputy head of the bank. Suzuki was earlier sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for four years.

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