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Sahashi Released on Bail

I take back what I said in my last post. It's not over with Sahashi. He was released on bail last night following his sentencing. The Asahi shimbun, among other papers, carried a report of the events in the courtroom yesterday. Here's a summary of that article.

Sahashi wore a dark suit as he stood in front of the judge as his sentence was read. Upon hearing he was sentenced to 3 and a half years in prison, he lifted his head slightly and then slumped into his seat as he sat down. Although he was briefly detained after the decision was read, he paid his original bail of ¥50 million plus an additional ¥10 million tacked onto it, and was released later that evening.

NOVA grew from a single school in Osaka in 1981 to to 994 schools in 2005, but after a series of problems with refunding canceled contracts, it went bankrupt in 2007.

When his trial began in June, Sahashi apologized to the students and staff for all of the trouble caused by the bankruptcy of NOVA, but under questioning, he repeatedly stated that he had no choice but to use money in an employee's welfare fund in order to save the company.

Former NOVA staff members who testified at the trial were critical of Sahashi.

A former HR manager who oversaw the employee payroll said that Sahashi kept receiving his high executive salary right up until the bankruptcy and never once offered to return it, and added that taking money from the welfare fund wasn't unavoidable.

Another former staff member in charge of accounting pointed out that NOVA's rapid expansion was causing cashflow problems, but Sahashi was putting the blame on the staff. He apparently told staff in a meeting that if the company went bankrupt, it would be their fault. Sahashi didn't want to offer a blubbering apology like the president of Yamaichi Securities did (when it went bankrupt in 1997).

After listening to testimony during the trial, Sahashi irately told reporters that the facts were wrong and mixed with speculation.

Sahashi's lawyers, who had emphasized that he had poured over ¥600 million of his own money into the company, thought the court's ruling was terrible.

Toyomi Ashida, a 60-year old former NOVA student still waiting for a refund of approximately ¥300 thousand, said that the sentence was fair given that Sahashi selfishly used money that belonged to the employees, but was dismayed that he was no closer to recovering his money.

Many expected the trial would reveal Sahashi's thinking and why NOVA went bankrupt, but were disappointed to only receive a standard apology.

According to lawyers representing a group of former students, roughly 300 thousand students across Japan are still waiting for some ¥56 billion (nearly $600 million USD) in refunds. Ashida and 23 other former students filed a class action lawsuit against Sahashi and NOVA management last October for ¥16 million. They are hoping to question Sahashi went the lawsuit goes to trial.

Sahashi was arrested for embezzlement by the Osaka police last June, eight months after the collapse of NOVA. While he was also investigated for aggregated breach of trust for causing huge losses to NOVA, not enough evidence was found to indict him. NOVA's bankruptcy trustees, however, have long believed that the dealings that caused the loses were shady and filed suit last week seeking ¥2.1 billion in damages.

Comment: That sound you hear is the collective screams of disbelief at Sahashi being released on bail. Sahashi has indicated that he will appeal the ruling, so it's not uncommon for non-violent offenders to be released pending their appeal. More importantly, his legal woes are far from over. Even if he manages to win his appeal and get a suspended sentence, there are two more lawsuits against him. He's going to be in court for a long time. Sahashi has maintained that all he was doing was trying to save the company and repay students and staff, but that money, and hopefully the truth, is now going to be extracted from him the hard way.

Asahi shimbun

NOVA判決 ワンマン手法重視 元受講生「実刑当然」

2009年8月27日

かつて6千人を超す社員や外国人講師を抱え、全国展開を遂げた英会話学校「NOVA」。その経営トップに立ち、社員の積立金を流用したとされる元社長の猿橋望被告(57)に、司法は「実刑」の厳しい判断を示した。元社長は沈痛な表情で判決を聴き、元受講生からは「当然」との声も上がった。

「すべて裁判官の前で説明した。あとは正しく判断してもらうことを信じて待つしかない」。昨年7月に保釈保証金5千万円で保釈された猿橋元社長は判決前、周囲にそう語ったとされる。

しかし、裁判長が告げた主文は実刑判決。黒っぽいスーツ姿で直立していた猿橋元社長はわずかに顔を上げ、裁判官席をじっと見据えたが、着席すると肩を落とし、終始うつむいて判決理由を聞いた。約40分の言い渡し後、いったん勾留(こうりゅう)されたが、26日夕方、保証金1千万円の追加で再度の保釈が認められた。

81年、大阪・心斎橋に第1号を開校。「駅前留学」「お茶の間留学」といったキャッチフレーズを打ち出し、05年には994店にまで店舗を広げ、ワンマン経営の組織を作り上げた。だが受講生と解約をめぐるトラブルが続き、資金繰りが悪化し、07年に破綻(はたん)した。

6月の初公判。元社長は「倒産で多くの生徒や社員に多大なご迷惑をかけたことを深くおわびします」と頭を下げた。だが被告人質問では、社員の積立金を使ったことは会社存続のためやむを得ない判断だったと繰り返した。

組織につかえた元社員らは、証人に立ったこれまでの法廷で元社長を批判した。

社員の給与を管理していた元人事管理課長は「破綻の直前まで高額な役員報酬を受け取り、自ら返上しようとはしなかった。流用がやむを得ないとは思わない」と語った。

元経理課長は「急激な拡大路線で資金繰りが追い付かなくなった」と指摘。元社長が社内の会議で「会社が破綻した場合は君たちの責任だぞ。私は(97年に破綻した)山一証券の社長みたいに泣くのは嫌だぞ」と発言したという話を明かし、「部下に責任を押しつけた」と述べた。

被告席の猿橋元社長は顔をこわばらせて証言を聴き、閉廷後に「事実とは異なる」「憶測が混じっている」と報道陣に憤ることもあった。

26日の判決後、個人資産6億円以上を会社に投じたことを強調していた元社長の弁護人は「ひどい判決だ」と不満を述べた。

実刑判決について、授業料約30万円が返還されずにいる元受講生で京都市に住む介護施設職員、芦田豊実(とよみ)さん(60)は「社員の金を勝手に使ったのだから当然だ。ただ、授業料が戻ってくるわけでもなく、むなしい」と話した。

元受講生にどんな思いでいるのか、なぜ会社を破綻させてしまったのかを、元社長が公判でどう語るかに期待していた。「結果的には型通りの謝罪だけで終わってしまった。残念でならない」

元受講生の被害対策弁護団によると、授業料が返還されていない元受講生は全国に約30万人、その額は約560億円にのぼる。芦田さんら元受講生24人は昨年10月、元社長を含む当時の経営陣らに授業料など計約1600万円の賠償を求める初の集団訴訟を大阪地裁に起こした。今後、訴訟で元社長の証人尋問を求めることも検討したいという。

猿橋元社長は破綻から約8カ月後の昨年6月、大阪府警に今回の事件で逮捕された。府警は、元社長が関係先との不当な取引でNOVAに多額の損害を与えたとみて、特別背任容疑も視野に捜査したが、違法性を裏付ける証拠が集まらず立件は見送られた。破産管財人は今月19日、この取引をめぐって元社長に約21億円の賠償を求める訴訟を大阪地裁に起こしている。

Comments

Horie is still out on bail, living high on the hog, until the supreme court puts him away. Monkye will try to get the sentence suspended in the High and then supreme courts, but as soon as the supreme court upholds the verdict - it is Prison Break time

Fairly weak on the spelling today, aren't we?

I have a question. How can someone be released on bail when they have been convicted of a crime in court?

Sounds like Monkeybridge still has plenty of money to burn and the only ones who are going to get it are the lawyers and the courts. 60 million for bail? Give it to the poor . . . ex-Nova students and teachers! No, I don't think he'll be going to jail anytime soon - only when the money runs out. After the lawyers have bled him dry the court can feast on the remains.

I was hoping for some real good anal raping of Monkey Boy from the prison population. Too bad we'll have to wait another 10 years until the appeals process runs out.

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