Takafumi Horie makes bail

Internet entrepreneur appeals conviction

TOKYO — Former dot.com star Takafumi Horie, who is appealing his conviction on securities laws violations to the Japanese Supreme Court, made bail on a 600 million yen ($5.6 million) bond on Monday, a court official said.

On Friday, the Tokyo High Court, an appeals court, upheld a guilty verdict and 2-1/2 year prison term for Horie, a relatively harsh ruling for white collar crime in Japan.

Horie had been handed the 2-1/2-year imprisonment in March last year by a lower court, which found him guilty of masterminding a network of decoy investment funds to manipulate earnings at his Internet services startup Livedoor Co.

Horie, 35, who has repeatedly said he is innocent, filed an appeal to the Supreme Court within hours of the Tokyo High Court’s decision.

Horie paid 500 million yen ($4.7 million) in bail after the lower court ruling last year. He paid an additional 100 million yen ($935,000) to make bail Monday, a court spokeswoman said on customary condition of anonymity here for giving statements to media.

Although Horie has argued he did not know about the decisions the executives under him had been making, the courts say Horie played a key role in setting up dubious funds for stock swaps and other schemes to pad Livedoor books.

The raid on Livedoor’s Tokyo offices and Horie’s subsequent arrest in early 2006 sparked a frenzied market sell-off dubbed “Livedoor shock” that forced the Tokyo Stock Exchange to curtail trading over capacity problems.

Horie was frequently seen on TV shows wearing his trademark T-shirt that was widely viewed as a symbol of his defiant entrepreneurship, which is still relatively rare in Japan — a culture that encourages conformity and deference to the status quo.

Horie tried to buy a professional baseball team and then take over a radio broadcaster to gain managerial influence over media group Fuji Television Network Inc. He also ran for a parliamentary seat.

The efforts were unsuccessful but helped spread an image of Horie’s glamour and innovation, helping attract a fair number of individual investors to Livedoor stock.

Prosecutors had demanded a four-year prison term for Horie in the lower court trial.

Horie’s lawyers say he has been unfairly singled-out. Horie’s assertion of innocence is unusual in this nation where 99% of criminal trials end in guilty verdicts and a show of remorse can help win lenience.

The courts have noted Horie has not shown remorse by insisting on his innocence. Reversals of criminal convictions at the Supreme Court are extremely rare in Japan.

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