Tokyo: A Japanese investment adviser was sentenced today to 15 years in prison for defrauding pension funds of some USD 240 million in a case that has invited comparisons with US fraudster Bernie Madoff.
Tokyo District Court jailed Kazuhiko Asakawa, 61, saying he lied about his firm`s investment performance and the size of assets under its management to solicit more investments from retirement funds.
The court also gave seven-year jail terms to his associates Shigeko Takahashi, 54, and Hideaki Nishimura, 58.
In a crime that echoed Madoff`s audacity, investigators found Japanese firm AIJ had lost USD 1.1 billion yen over nine years to March 2011 through derivative trading, using cash invested by pension funds.
The Tokyo court said the three claimed AIJ had enjoyed strong returns on its investments and used this false information to steal USD 240 million belonging to 17 pension funds between 2009 and 2012.
The funds were largely employee pension funds for small- and medium-sized businesses.
As well as the jail terms the court also confiscated 570 million yen of AIJ`s assets and separately ordered them to pay a total of 15.7 billion yen.
"It was an audacious and shameless crime," presiding judge Akira Ando told the court.
"The act was extremely heinous as they insinuated themselves (into the favour of) pension funds that required stable management," the judge said.
Madoff is currently serving a 150-year jail term in the United States for his massive Ponzi scheme.
He took in billions of dollars from thousands of clients over decades, building a reputation as a shrewd investment manager by paying out fake "profits" to some investors by plundering the new cash from others.
But his pyramid fraud collapsed in 2008, wiping out numerous family fortunes. He was arrested in December that year, and pleaded guilty in 2009.