Murakami insider trading trial ends

Decision will be handed down on July 19

TOKYO — The insider trading trial of Yoshiaki Murakami, a trade ministry bureaucrat turning high-flying fund manager, ended on Tuesday with Murakami and his lawyers protesting his innocence in  buying shares of Nippon Broadcasting Inc. (NBS), a radio broadcasting sub of the Fuji TV network.

Murakami admitted hearing from Takafumi Horie, the former prexy of Internet start-up Livedoor, about his plan to snap up a large chunk of NBS shares as part of a takeover bid, but claimed he thought Horie’s chances of success were slim.

Arrested last June, Murakami at first admitted to reporters his involvement in the scheme, but changed his tune with the start of his trial and has stoutly maintained his innocence ever since. 

The Tokyo District Court will hand down its decision on July 19.

Prosecutors have asked for a three-year prison sentence for Murakami, together with a Y3 million ($24,793) fine. They also want him to cough up the alleged Y1.1 billion ($9.09 million) he made on insider trading.

Murakami is charged with using info from Horie to score a windfall profit from Livedoor’s purchases of shares in the Nippon Broadcasting System, a radio broadcasting sub of the Fuji TV web, in 2004 and 2005. The penalty he is being asked to pay is the largest in the history of Japanese insider trading cases. According to prosecutors, Horie told Murakami about Livedoor’s plan to acquire a block of NBS shares as a preliminary to a takeover bid for Fuji TV itself as early as November 8 or  9, 2004. MAC Asset Management, an investing company that Murakami ran out of Singapore, then proceeded to buy up 1.93 million NBS shares for about Y9.95 billion ($82.2 million).

After Livedoor revealed that has acquired a 35 percent stake in NBS in February, 2005, MAC Asset sold off its NBS shares, reaping a Y3 billion ($24.8 million) profit.

In June 2006, just before his arrest, Murakami told reporters that he had prior knowledge of the Livedoor stock buy, but after his trial started in December he said he had lied to protect MAC Asset employees from legal consequences. Horie, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison in March for finagling Livedoor’s profit statements to boost its stock price, has testified on Murakami’s behalf, saying that he did not make the final decision on the NBS share purchase until just before the February 2005 announcement.

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