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Horie pleads ignorance

Former Livedoor prexy places blame on Miyauchi

TOKYO — Former Livedoor prexy Takafumi Horie, whose hostile takeover bid for the mighty Fuji TV web shook the Japanese business world, took the witness stand for the first time Tuesday in his trial for violations of securities laws.

Horie claimed he was ignorant of the fraud that led to his arrest and told judges that former chief financial officer Ryoji Miyauchi “had chief responsibility for accounting matters.”

Miyauchi admitted to wrongdoing at his trial in September but claimed that Horie conspired to buy other companies to hide Livedoor’s growing losses in 2004 before mounting the ultimately unsuccessful bid for Fuji via a radio subsid early in 2005.

On the witness stand, Horie declared that he “never would have thought to inflate sales” through a scam.

Miyauchi’s claims have been backed by other Livedoor execs, who have pleaded guilty and testified for prosecution.

Horie’s not-guilty plea is highly unusual in Japan, where defendants commonly cop to lesser charges.

Once a high-flying Internet powerhouse, Livedoor has been delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange and is struggling to redefine its future.

Usen prexy Yasuhide Uno has acquired a 12.74% stake in the company, but alliance talks between Livedoor and Usen, a broadband giant with media interests, have stalled.

The court intends to finish hearings by Nov. 28 and hand down a verdict by March.

If convicted, Horie faces up to five years in prison, a fine of ¥5 million ($42,000) or both.

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