Prosecutors and financial regulators have questioned well-known fund manager Yoshiaki Murakami on a voluntary basis over possible insider trading in connection with purchases of shares in Nippon Broadcasting System Inc. in 2005, investigative sources said Saturday.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office has yet to make a final decision, but there is a growing possibility that investigators will search the offices of the Murakami fund and other relevant locations as early as Monday, the sources said.

Murakami was reportedly questioned by investigators from the prosecutor’s office and the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission.

Murakami was directly informed by then Livedoor Co. President Takafumi Horie of his decision to join the fund in efforts to buy shares of Nippon Broadcasting, a radio firm affiliated with Fuji Television Network Inc., before the Livedoor board approved the decision Feb. 8, 2005, sources said.

After obtaining the participation information during the period between Oct. 1, 2004, and Jan. 5, 2005, the fund made additional purchases of NBS shares, the sources said.

As of Oct. 1, 2004, the fund held a stake of 12 percent, or 3.94 million, NBS shares, according to the fund’s mandatory reports to the Finance Ministry and the sources.

After that, the fund continued to buy NBS shares almost daily. As of Dec. 31, 2004, its holdings stood at 5.28 million shares, or 16 percent of its outstanding shares.

The stake then rose to 18.57 percent as of Jan. 5, 2005, when the fund purchased another 800,000 shares, the reports show.

During the period of a little over three months, the sources said, Murakami told Horie and other Livedoor officials, “Let’s buy (the shares) together.”

Afterward, Horie made the decision to join the fund in buying the NBS shares, conveying his decision to Murakami during the same period, the sources said.

On Feb. 8, 2005, Livedoor said it had obtained a Nippon Broadcasting stake of some 35 percent, including a 29.63 percent stake it had acquired that day in off-hours trading using the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s computerized trading system.

The special investigative squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office has concluded that Murakami conducted insider trading because Horie’s decision to join the fund’s efforts to snap up the shares is tantamount to a decision by Livedoor itself, investigative sources said.

The prosecutors have already questioned several Murakami fund officials and others, including former Livedoor Chief Financial Officer Ryoji Miyauchi, over the possible insider trading, the sources said.

According to the investigative sources, Miyauchi told the prosecutors, “Livedoor had no choice but to continue buying Nippon Broadcasting shares because the Murakami fund later pulled out of the battle to snap up the shares.”

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