Japanese Dot-Com Mogul Blasts Conviction

The Associated Press
Sunday, March 18, 2007; 1:08 AM

TOKYO -- Disgraced dot-com tycoon Takafumi Horie slammed his conviction and harsh sentence for securities fraud on Sunday, insisting he had committed no crimes and that he had more than paid for any mistakes by losing his company.

On Friday, Horie was found guilty of masterminding a network of decoy investment funds to illegally manipulate earnings at his Internet startup, and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in the biggest white-collar-crime trial Japan has witnessed in years.

"I did not intentionally attempt to pad earnings, and there was no false accounting," an intent-looking Horie, former president of Livedoor Co., told a TV Asahi talk show on Sunday. "I do not accept the court's verdict."

Horie is currently on bail while he appeals the court's verdict.

He rejected suggestions from show commentators that he apologize for causing turmoil in Japanese markets. The raid on Livedoor's offices and Horie's subsequent arrest in early 2006 sparked a frenzied market sell-off that forced the Tokyo Stock Exchange to curtail trading over capacity problems.

"I have stepped down as Livedoor president, I lost my position and my salary, and I was incarcerated. I believe I have lived up to my management responsibilities," he said. "To apologize ... would be inconsistent with my assertions."

Horie is both adored and despised in Japan for his brash personality and bold actions. He appeared often on TV, ran unsuccessfully for a seat in parliament and tried to take over a radio broadcaster to gain managerial influence over media group Fuji Television Network Inc.

He repeatedly asserted his innocence during his intensely watched trial that began in September _ unusual in a nation where 99 percent of criminal trials end in guilty verdicts, and a show of remorse can help win lenience.

Prosecutors had demanded a four-year prison term for Horie, even though executives charged with white-collar wrongdoing generally get a suspended sentence and avoid prison in Japan.

His severe treatment by authorities has prompted some to question whether Horie had been punished as much for his open defiance of a corporate culture long dominated by big-name companies as for his wrongdoings.

© 2007 The Associated Press