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Prosecutors seek 16 mil. yen fine, prison sentence for ex-Nihon Univ. chairman

Hidetoshi Tanaka, former chairman of Nihon University, is seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on March 7, 2022. (Pool photo)

TOKYO -- The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on March 7 sought a prison sentence of one year and a fine of 16 million yen (about $139,000) for the former chairman of Nihon University, who is on trial for evading taxes and violating the Income Tax Act. His defense attorneys sought a suspended sentence.

    The ruling will be handed down on March 29 at the Tokyo District Court. Hidetoshi Tanaka is charged with evading a total of 52 million yen (approx. $451,000) in income tax by not reporting rebates he received from companies Nihon University had business dealings with. Prosecutors explained their reasoning for the punishment sought, saying, "(Tanaka) used his position as chairman of one of the country's largest universities, and societal disapproval is strong."

    In the first public hearing in February, Tanaka said he felt remorse, but he was criticized for having no words for the students of Nihon University. In his final oral statement on March 7, Tanaka apologized, saying, "I am deeply remorseful for causing anxiety among Nihon University students and their families," and, "I sincerely hope for the university's further development."

    In their closing arguments, prosecutors emphasized the tremendous influence Tanaka wielded since becoming Nihon University chairman in 2008 on Nihon University Enterprise Co., a company connected to the university that handles contract-related services. They said Tanaka gave former Nihon University executive board member Tadao Inoguchi, 64, who has been indicted on a breach of trust charge, a senior role in Enterprise Co., after which he began receiving cash from businesses Enterprise Co. dealt with.

    Despite being singled out for failing to declare part of his income taxes and being forced to file an amended tax return in 2015, it appears Tanaka received cash as recompense many times from businesses he worked with, and kept the money at his home. This included receiving a total of 75 million yen (approx. $649,000) in 2018 and 2020 from Masami Yabumoto, 61, the former director of medical corporation Kinshukai group in Osaka. Prosecutors were critical, stating, "There are no grounds for clemency for Tanaka, whose greedy motivations and continuing pattern of behavior disregarded his social responsibility to honestly pay tax."

    In its closing statement, Tanaka's legal team argued against the prosecutors' position that rebates Tanaka received were effectively funds leaked from Nihon University over a breach-of-trust case regarding plans to rebuild Nihon University Hospital that flowed back to Tanaka. The attorneys said that "(Tanaka) was not involved in the breach of trust, and he was not aware he gained money illicitly." They said Tanaka's actions amounted to a suspended sentence, since he admitted to the indictment charges and already submitted an amended tax return.

    (Japanese original by Koji Endo, Tokyo City News Department)

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