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To cover the trail, police say, Harenohi kimono rental business swapped accountants annually from 2015

Kyodo

A bankrupt kimono rental firm whose president was arrested on suspicion of fraudulently obtaining bank loans before declaring the company bankrupt in January started changing its accounting firm every year after the business year that ended in September 2015, sources said Sunday.

The Kanagawa Prefectural Police suspect the action was aimed at preventing its window-dressing from being discovered and is examining the firm’s finances.

Harenohi, the company, went belly up right before Coming-of-Age Day, denying hundreds of young women the lavish formal attire rented for the annual adulthood ceremonies, investigative sources said.

They also said Sunday that it might be difficult to treat it as a customer fraud case because it is hard to prove whether he intended to deceive his customers.

The arrest of Harenohi President Yoichiro Shinozaki came a few hours after he returned from a trip to the United States on Saturday. He is suspected of defrauding a bank of ¥35 million in loans on Sept. 30, 2016, the police said.

The 55-year-old was mum as reporters monitored his arrival at Narita airport.

Yokohama-based Harenohi suddenly closed its shops right before Coming-of-Age Day on Jan. 8, leaving scores of customers in Yokohama and Hachioji in western Tokyo without kimono.

The fiasco over the once-in-a-lifetime event sparked anger and tears among this year’s new 20-year-olds and their families, who were eagerly waiting to celebrate the start of adulthood.

Shinozaki is suspected of getting bank loans by submitting an inflated financial report for the business year ended September 2015, the sources said.

On Jan. 26, the Yokohama District Court began bankruptcy procedures for the company. An administrator estimated Harenohi’s liabilities at around ¥1.09 billion.

In Japan, new 20-year-old women don lavish furisode (long-sleeved) kimono that would cost several hundred thousand yen if purchased new, to mark their foray in adulthood, which is celebrated on the second Monday of each January.

Those who were denied their kimono remain frustrated because they have not yet received compensation or seen Shinozaki making amends.

“The shock of having a once-in-a-lifetime celebration ruined will never disappear,” said the mother of a university student in Yokohama who was blindsided by the fiasco.