The Tokyo District Court on Wednesday acquitted a former employee of the Hong Kong unit of Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse of laundering some 9.4 billion yen on behalf of a mobster who ran a loan-shark network affiliated with Yamaguchi-gumi.
Presiding Judge Yoshinobu Iida said there was “reasonable doubt” that Atsushi Doden, 43, knew the money entrusted to him was profits from criminal activities and that the testimony of another gangster, whose name was not provided, about a conspiracy with Doden was not trustworthy.
The acquittal of the man prosecutors had said gave the instructions on managing the money flow might force investigators to review how they probe money-laundering cases.
The defendant had pleaded not guilty, with his counsel claiming he did not know the money entrusted to him came from illegal lending. The defense team had said there was no conspiracy and the main culprits had given false testimony.
Prosecutors had demanded three years in prison and a 3 million yen fine, saying Doden had played an indispensable part in the crime of illegal lending.
They said that as a banker, the movement of large amounts of money should have made him suspicious of possible money-laundering. They also argued that the defendant’s claims could not be believed when compared with the testimony others gave in the case.
However, the judge said that movement of the money could have been an effort to evade taxes, as Doden said he believed, and was not necessarily linked to money-laundering.
Doden’s lawyer, Michihiko Takabe, welcomed the ruling, saying he had the highest respect for the court’s “impartial” decision.
Doden was charged with helping to launder money for a group led by “loan shark king” Susumu Kajiyama, who attempted to hide profits obtained by lending money at illegally high interest rates, including about 5.1 billion yen transferred in May 2003 to accounts opened at the Credit Suisse unit where Doden worked. Kajiyama ran a network of 1,000 loan-sharking groups for Goryokai, an affiliate of Yamaguchi-gumi.
The Tokyo High Court in November sentenced Kajiyama to 6 1/2 years in prison for violating the financial investment law by lending money at exorbitant interest rates and violating the antiorganized crime law by laundering the money through Japanese and overseas financial institutions.