National / Crime & Legal

Former president of bankrupt travel agency Tellmeclub gets six years for fraud

by Sakura Murakami

Staff Writer

The Tokyo District Court on Friday found Chikako Yamada, the former president of failed travel agency Tellmeclub, guilty of falsifying her company’s financial records to fraudulently receive funding from two banks. She was sentenced to six years in prison.

Yamada and her then-subordinate Toshiyuki Sasai doctored the company’s financial statements with non-existent profits in order to receive funding totaling about ¥540 million from Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. and Higashi-Nippon Bank.

She was also found guilty of hiding ¥10 million from her lawyers and claiming she had only about ¥570,000 in cash when filing for personal bankruptcy in April last year.

Chief Judge Masaya Kawamoto sentenced Yamada to six years in prison despite prosecutors’ request for eight, claiming that Yamada had shown “remorse” and that he hoped she will “mend her ways” given the scale of damage caused by the bankruptcy.

Travel agency Tellmeclub filed for bankruptcy in March last year following complaints from customers who had paid for their trips but said that when they arrived at airports and hotels they found their bookings had not been paid for by Tellmeclub.

Tellmeclub’s total debt as of March last year amounted to roughly ¥15.1 billion, making it the fourth biggest bankruptcy in the history of the nation’s travel industry, according to Tokyo Shoko Research Ltd.

The company owed some 80,000 to 90,000 customers a total of ¥9.9 billion in advance payments for travel tours and online airfares at the time of bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy administrator of Tellmeclub confirmed on the now-defunct travel agency’s website that the company will be able to pay out some dividends to creditors.

Tokyo Shoko Research has reported that Tellmeclub will receive over ¥300 million when bank deposits, tax refunds and the like are refunded to the company. However, administrators have failed to specify a date for when creditors will get their dividends, or how much they will receive.

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