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OSAKA (Kyodo) A loan shark was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison Wednesday for usury and ruthless loan-collection methods that drove three people to commit suicide together in Osaka Prefecture in June 2003.

Koji Kamei, 43, was in addition fined ¥10 million by the Osaka District Court, which also convicted him of operating an unlicensed money-lending business in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, and imposing illegally high interest rates on borrowers in January-February 2006.

Judge Taku Komatsumoto said in handing down the ruling that Kamei committed an “occupational crime” that was “malicious,” noting the interest rates, which far surpassed the legal limits, and brutal collection methods put immense emotional strain on borrowers.

Kamei was found to have led several loan shark syndicates nationwide, one of which was involved in a case in Yao, Osaka Prefecture, in which an elderly couple and the wife’s brother took their own lives.

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