JAPAN: Takefuji chairman admits ordering phone tap, resigns

Takefuji Corp. founder Yasuo Takei resigned Monday as chairman after admitting he ordered his men to bug a journalist's phone

The Japan Times
Tuesday, December 9, 2003

By Taiga Uranaka

Takefuji Corp. founder Yasuo Takei, under arrest for his alleged role in a wiretapping case, resigned Monday as chairman after admitting he ordered his men to bug a journalist's phone, the major consumer loan company said.

Takefuji, which earlier denied involvement by its boss, stuck to its contention that the alleged wrongdoings were carried out by Takei and his lieutenant, and that the firm did not know anything about it.

"The series of wiretaps under investigation by law enforcement authorities was carried out under my order, and I take full responsibility and deeply apologize," the 73-year-old Takei said in a letter read by Takefuji President Akira Kiyokawa during a news conference at the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

"I cannot yet believe this, but I would like to take (Takei's admission) gravely," Kiyokawa said.

According to Kiyokawa, Takei's lawyer delivered the message to the company in the afternoon, and the firm's board approved Takei's wish to step down as chairman and board member.

Kiyokawa said the company will review its course of action in libel suits it has filed against journalists who wrote articles on the wiretapping allegations.

"Given (Takei's admission), we have to change direction. We will consider (future moves), including dropping the suits," Kiyokawa said.

Takei was arrested Dec. 2 for alleged violation of the Telecommunications Business Law for his suspected role in the wiretapping of freelance journalist Shunsuke Yamaoka from December 2000 to February 2001. Yamaoka had written articles critical of Takefuji.

Investigation authorities are reportedly considering fresh charges against Takei in connection with another wiretapping incident involving journalist Shoji Takao.

Kiyokawa pledged to salvage the company's tarnished image by boosting its legal compliance regimen, but it may be a tough job to convince the public, since Takefuji has so far insisted that its in-house probe showed Takei was not involved in the wiretapping incident.

"The chairman consistently denied his involvement to our probe," he said.

And it is unclear whether the company can break clean from the influence of Takei, who yielded unparalleled authority within the company. Kiyokawa denied Takei will exert any more influence on the company's management.

Asked whether Takefuji will file a criminal complaint against Takei for breach of trust, Kiyokawa only said the company will consider various options.