• Kyodo News


A former sumo wrestler pleaded guilty Tuesday to extorting ¥3.5 million from former ozeki Kotomitsuki over illegal gambling on professional baseball games in a scandal that rocked the national sport earlier this year.

Mitsutomo Furuichi, 38, however, pleaded not guilty to extorting ¥3 million from another former makuuchi-division wrestler who belonged to the Onomatsu stable.

Furuichi entered the pleas as his trial, presided over by Judge Ikuro Toishi, got under way at the Tokyo District Court.

Furuichi’s codefendant in both cases, Yoshihiko Yasuda, 46, a senior member of the country’s biggest underworld organization, the Kobe-based Yamaguchi-gumi, also pleaded not guilty.

Furuichi and Yasuda are also charged with attempting to extort ¥100 million from Kotomitsuki in hush money over the gambling. They are expected to enter pleas for that charge at the next trial session or later.

Kotomitsuki, who belonged to the Sadogatake stable and had attained sumo’s second-highest rank of ozeki, was kicked out of the sport in July for his involvement in the baseball gambling scandal. Stablemaster Otake was given the boot at the same time.

NHK skipped televising July’s Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament live due to the scandal. It was the first time in its history that NHK did not air an entire sumo tournament live on television. NHK resumed televising sumo with the current tournament that started Sept. 12.

In Tuesday’s court session, prosecutors read out an opening statement outlining the nature and developments of the sumo scandal, and said Kotomitsuki, together with stablemaster Otake, started betting on pro baseball games around June 2006 after being invited by a 29-year-old “tokoyama,” or sumo hair stylist.

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