Livedoor Co. founder Takafumi Horie, 33, who faces trial for accounting fraud and securities law violations, was freed Thursday night from the Tokyo Detention House, a day after paying a 300 million yen bail and after more than three months behind bars.
The information technology tycoon paid the 300 million yen by check as soon as bail was granted Wednesday, but prosecutors appealed the decision to let him out, and thus his freedom was put on hold.
The Tokyo District Court rejected the appeal Thursday and allowed him to walk free for the first time since his Jan. 23 arrest.
More than 300 reporters rushed to ask for comments outside the detention center in Katsushika Ward, but Horie soon left in a van, even though his attorney had earlier promised to arrange a press conference.
Before leaving, however, Horie briefly commented to reporters: “I’m sorry for causing such a stir. I have caused concern to shareholders, employees and other related parties of Livedoor. And I want to thank the many people who offered me encouragement.”
The van then reportedly drove to the Roppongi Hills complex in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, where Horie lives and where Livedoor is headquartered.
Horie is still the single largest stockholder of Livedoor, owning 17 percent of the scandal-tainted Internet services company. But the firm’s executives have stressed he would not be staging a comeback to the firm’s helm.
“We will never invite him to the management team. We won’t contact him, and he won’t try to do so, either,” Livedoor President Kozo Hiramatsu told reporters.
Generally bail is not granted to someone who does not admit guilt. Horie’s lawyers requested bail on Feb. 16 and again on March 14. The two requests were denied and the lawyers filed a third request April 10.
The entrepreneur has been charged along with the four others with financial fraud.
Horie and the four other former Livedoor executives are charged with falsely reporting a 5 billion yen consolidated pretax profit for the year to September 2004 when it had 300 million yen in losses.
The four, including ex-Livedoor Chief Financial Officer Ryoji Miyauchi and ex-Livedoor Representative Director Fumito Kumagai, have been freed on bail. They have owned up to the charges against them.
The court apparently has decided Horie and four other former executives charged in the case will not destroy evidence, given that prosecutors and his lawyers have begun procedures to clarify main issues in the upcoming trial.
All except Kumagai are also accused of spreading false financial information in 2004 about the takeover of a publishing firm by Livedoor Marketing Co., then known as ValueClick Japan Inc.
The four men are being tried separately from Horie. The court Wednesday set May 26 as the date their trial will begin, court officials said. They will be tried with the two accountants — Motoshi Kobayashi and Taishin Hisano — charged in March with colluding with the Livedoor executives.
The court also said it will hold a meeting May 10 to arrange Horie’s trial schedule.
In a related development Wednesday, a group of shareholders filed suit against Livedoor and its executives, another official at the Tokyo District Court said.
About 100 shareholders filed suit against the Internet company, Horie and other senior managers, seeking 2.13 billion yen in damages.
Another group representing about 1,000 Livedoor shareholders plans to file a similar suit at the end of May.
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