Corrupt accountant handed 14-year term

AOMORI – An accountant was sentenced Thursday to 14 years in prison for embezzling 1.45 billion yen from an Aomori Prefectural public housing authority, most of which he funneled to his Chilean wife.

Yuji Chida embezzled the sum over 165 occasions between October 1994 and October 2001 from the Aomori Prefectural Housing Supply Public Corp., where he was in charge of accounting before his arrest, the Aomori District Court ruled.

Chida, 45, confessed to giving about 1.1 billion yen of the embezzled money to his 29-year-old Chilean wife, Anita Alvarado, 29, and her relatives. The couple met when she worked as a hostess in Japan.

He said he spent the rest of the money in bars and on travel.

Chida's lawyer, Yoshikazu Yokoyama, said his client will not appeal the ruling. “The biggest reason (behind his decision) is that he does not want to be pursued by the mass media (by taking the case to a higher court),” Yokoyama said.

Presiding Judge Akiyoshi Yamauchi said, “This is a crime motivated by selfishness and leaves no room for leniency.”

Chida admitted to the crime during the trial and his lawyers sought a lenient sentence, arguing that Chida has cooperated in efforts to recover the money from Alvarado, who refused to return the funds and has purchased several properties in Chile, including a luxury mansion.

Prosecutors had demanded a 15-year prison term.

Chida started embezzling in February 1993, stealing about 1.46 billion yen over a seven-year period, the court found. However, the statute of limitations has run out for the funds embezzled before October 1994.

Efforts to recover the embezzled money are making little headway.

Last month, in a separate civil suit filed by the corporation in the district court, Chida was ordered to pay back the entire amount he pilfered.

He has thus far paid back just 5.18 million yen — the amount he had with him when he was arrested — to his employer since the case came to light.

His remaining assets, including jewels, bank deposits and a house for which he has not repaid all the loans, are worth just 1 million yen.

According to earlier reports, a Chilean court, acting on a request from Japanese authorities, seized Alvarado's properties and auctioned the mansion in an effort to recoup some of the funds for the housing authority.

The auction only generated around $600,000, or some 74 million yen. Of this amount, about 24 million yen was left for the corporation after it had settled its legal bill, according to informed sources.

Although the corporation plans to auction seven other properties seized by the Chilean court from Alvarado, none is estimated to be worth more than the house.

Alvarado, 29, returned to Chile after marrying Chida and fitted out a 20-room dream home. She also transformed herself into a businesswoman, running two medical clinics and two restaurants.

Alvarado tried to block the sale of the mansion, claiming she had no knowledge of her husband's dealings and that she had earned the money her husband had sent her.

In August, the housing corporation filed a criminal complaint in Santiago against Alvarado, alleging she had concealed her marriage to Chida and had falsely listed real estate holdings as her own when she transferred their titles to a Cuban man.

Under Chilean law, a husband has administration rights over common property unless a special cause in the marriage contract stipulates otherwise.

After the ruling, Shinichi Tokumi, president of the housing corporation, said the firm will continue maximum effort to recover as much money that went to Alvarado as possible.

Meanwhile, three former executives of the corporation have forked out a total of 930,000 yen after the corporation accused them of failing to meet their supervisory responsibilities.

The corporation has filed a lawsuit urging 19 former executives to pay a total of 900 million yen in damages. The legal battle is likely to drag on, however, with little prospect that the former executives will be able to pay this amount, according to the sources.

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