High court overturns not-guilty verdict for actor Haga over fraud
TV personality Kenji Haga is seen on his way to the Osaka High Court on June 17. (Mainichi)
OSAKA (Kyodo) -- The Osaka High Court on Friday overturned a not-guilty verdict handed down by a lower court, giving 49-year-old actor Kenji Haga a six-year prison term for defrauding a man and attempting to blackmail him.
The high court also overturned a not-guilty ruling by the Osaka District Court for former professional boxer Jiro Watanabe, 56, who was charged with conspiring with Haga in the blackmail attempt, and sentenced him to two years in prison.
Haga's lawyer said the actor would be appealing the ruling.
The focal point of the trial was the credibility of the testimony given by the man who was defrauded and threatened. The high court said it found the victim's testimony credible.
The lower court in November 2008 acquitted Haga on charges of defrauding the man of 370 million yen and attempting to blackmail him into writing off 400 million yen worth of debts, citing doubts about the victim's testimony after a former dentist and acquaintance of Haga gave testimony favorable to the actor. Watanabe was also acquitted on the same grounds.
But the high court's Presiding Judge Hiroshi Furukawa found the former dentist's testimony unnatural as it was not supported by objective evidence and judged that he was being "intentionally deceitful" out of concern for Haga, who had close ties with him.
Furukawa said the victim's testimony was "consistent with other facts and thus highly credible," and found both Haga and Watanabe guilty.
After the lower court ruling, public prosecutors indicted the former dentist and he was later found guilty of perjury concerning his testimony at the lower court. Furukawa admitted the perjury ruling as evidence in Haga's and Watanabe's trial.
According to the ruling, Haga, whose real name is Mikio Toma, defrauded an acquaintance of 370 million yen between June and October in 2001 as payment for the unlisted stock of a medical consulting firm, which was three times higher than the actual cost of the stock.
But the company went under before listing its stock, and the man demanded that Haga pay back 400 million yen as compensation.
In collusion with Watanabe, a former world championship holder, and two gangsters, Haga was then accused of coercing the man at a hotel in Osaka in June 2006 into signing a contract stating he would waive the 400 million yen if Haga paid 10 million yen, the ruling said.
The former dentist testified that the victim knew about the actual price of the stock as they had talked about buying it.
Both the defendants pleaded not guilty, while the prosecutors demanded eight and four years in prison, respectively, for Haga and Watanabe.
(Mainichi Japan) June 18, 2011
Actor Haga arrested over blackmail
Actor and jewelry designer Kenji Haga was arrested Saturday along with three others for allegedly blackmailing a real estate agent into forgiving 400 million yen worth of Haga's debts, police said.
Those arrested were Haga, 45, whose real name is Mikio Toma; Jiro Watanabe, 51, a former world champion professional boxer and an affiliate of a group linked to the Yamaguchi-gumi syndicate; and Toshikazu Kawakita, 69, also an affiliate of the same group. The fourth person was not identified.
According to the police, the four planned to threaten the 51-year-old Osaka man in May 2006 to waive 400 million yen owed by Haga. In June 2006, they met him at an Osaka hotel and coerced him into signing a contract stating he would forgive Haga's debt once he paid 10 million yen.
Haga was not at the hotel, but Watanabe later reported to Haga over the phone that the man had signed the contract, police said.
Kenji Haga arrested again September 20, 2007 tokyograph
Actor Kenji Haga has been arrested again, this time for fraud. He was previously arrested in June for blackmail, and he was subsequently indicted.
In 2001, a male acquaintance asked him to be the intermediary for a private equity transaction. He wanted to purchase 50 shares of medical consulting firm Wellness, which were priced at 400,000 yen. However, Haga told him the shares were 1.2 million yen each, charging him a total of 60 million yen. He gave the man the requested 50 shares while pocketing the remaining 40 million yen, using some of it to buy stock for himself. Police also believe Haga later defrauded the man of additional money.
Haga denied the charges, saying it was the man who insisted on buying the shares even at that price. When questioned about the incident after Haga’s arrest, the man declined to comment.