National / Crime & Legal

Guardian of 3/11 orphan gets six years for embezzling his aid money

Kyodo

A corporate executive from Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, was handed a six-year prison term Thursday for embezzling some ¥68 million from the bank account of his 15-year-old nephew, who was orphaned by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The ruling, handed down at the Sendai District Court, came after prosecutors demanded a 10-year prison term for Yoshihiro Shima, 41, who was managing the funds as the nephew’s guardian.

Presiding Judge Kenji Koike called Shima’s act “malicious” because he used disaster relief donations and death payments from mutual aid pensions provided after the parents died to buy a luxury car and other goods.

“The funds to be used in the future for the nephew, who was 9 years old at the time, are lost and this could have a significant impact on his life,” the judge said.

But the ruling handed down a prison sentence shorter than what prosecutors demanded, saying the fact that the victim was orphaned by the disaster cannot be used as a reason to be more strict on the defendant than in similar embezzlements perpetrated by guardians.

According to the ruling, Shima withdrew around ¥66.8 million from his nephew’s bank account and transferred it to his own account between April 2011 and November 2014.

He also swindled about ¥1.2 million using a deposit book belonging to his sister — the boy’s deceased mother — by concealing her death from the bank. Shima, who has already been dismissed as a guardian, argued that he thought he could use the money for himself.

During the trial, the nephew said in a statement: “I feel anger to hear that (my uncle) used most of the money that was left by my parents in exchange for their lives. I would like him to pay for his crime as an adult.”

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