Horie denies corruption charges


A Japanese businessman whose internet company was at the centre of a corruption scandal which rocked the Japanese stock market has pleaded not guilty to securities charges laid against him.

Takafumi Horie denied deliberately increasing the profits of his Livedoor company in order to improve its share prices, despite the fact that four of his associates at the firm have already admitted their guilt in the case.

The Livedoor scandal shocked the Tokyo stock exchange when police officers raided the firm's offices in January this year. Uncertainty about the corruption's true extent caused an outflow of capital from the south-east Asian market so extreme that the stock exchange was forced to cease all trading before its scheduled closure time.

Mr Horie's decision to fight the case is in line with his renowned bullish character, whose attitude to his work has shunned the conservative, conventional style preferred by Japanese businessmen.

"I have not carried out, or instructed, such crimes as were mentioned… it's regrettable that I've been indicted," Mr Horie was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency in court.

The effort to preserve his large fortune rests upon an attempt to distance himself from any knowledge of corrupt activities among other members of the Livedoor board. His lawyers have claimed the prosecution is interpreting his activities at the time of the alleged illegal money laundering and securities fraud in an unfair and unrealistic way.

The allegations surrounding Mr Horie have damaged prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, who encouraged the Livedoor founder to stand for parliament at the last round of Japanese elections.

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