National / Crime & Legal

Five-year jail term sought for ex-head of bankrupt kimono firm over alleged fraud

Kyodo

Prosecutors asked a court on Tuesday to sentence the former head of a bankrupt rental kimono firm to five years in prison for engaging in fraud to keep his business afloat.

The company ultimately closed suddenly ahead of the Coming of Age Day celebration in January.

Yoichiro Shinozaki, the 56-year-old former president of the now-defunct Harenohi, apologized at the Yokohama District Court to the some 2,000 female clients who were left without formal attire for their once-in-a-lifetime event.

For the event, many women wear lavish, long-sleeved furisode kimono, often costing several hundred thousands of yen if purchased, to mark the day when municipalities hold ceremonies for new 20-year-olds around Coming of Age Day, designated as the second Monday of January.

“I did something that I cannot make up for during my lifetime,” Shinozaki said. “I deeply regret it. I am very sorry.”

Shinozaki has already admitted to swindling a combined ¥65 million from two banks in September 2016 by presenting a padded earnings report to cover up the fact that his company was actually in the red.

Prosecutors said the fraud was “premeditated and should be strongly condemned,” as Shinozaki had directed the compilation of the bogus earnings reports despite knowing his company had excess liabilities.

The defense lawyers asked for a suspended sentence, saying Shinozaki “wanted to keep a promise of renting kimono to new 20-year-olds.”

As Harenohi shops shut down right before this year’s Coming of Age Day celebration on Jan. 8, some 2,000 customers in Yokohama and the Hachioji area of Tokyo were left without festive kimono to wear for the occasion, prompting many to complain to the police.

Harenohi went under in late January with an estimated ¥1.09 billion in debt, of which ¥345 million was owed to customers.

The police initially sought to charge the company with customer fraud but gave up after finding it had been preparing kimono even as its business was deteriorating.

The district court is set to hand down a ruling on Dec. 19.