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Ex-Nagano pension fund manager accused of embezzlement preferred Ginza hostesses

Yoshinobu Sakamoto
Yoshinobu Sakamoto
TOKYO (TR) – A former Japanese pension fund manager arrested in Thailand last week enjoyed an extravagant life prior to fleeing Japan, reports the Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 5).

Last Friday, immigration officials in Bangkok arrested Yoshinobu Sakamoto, 55, the former manager the Nagano Prefecture Construction Industry Welfare Pension Fund, for being in the country illegally.

Since 2010, Sakamoto had been wanted by the Nagano Prefectural Police in connection with the embezzlement of 2.38 billion yen from that fund. When he was arrested, Sakamoto reportedly had 20,000 yen in his possession.

Sakamoto’s downfall was drastic. An acquaintance tells the Yomiuri that prior to leaving Japan he was referred to as “company president” and spent time in hostess clubs in glitzy Ginza.

Through an introduction from a female manager of a club in Ginza, he began dining at a high-end restaurant in the Roppongi entertainment district in 2009. Until August of the following year (one month before he fled), he came to the restaurant once a month, each time with three or four Ginza hostesses.

“He was always wearing a finely tailored suit,” says an employee at the restaurant. “I had heard he was staying at a top hotel in Roppongi. I thought he was a well-bred son from a wealthy family.”

Sakamoto, who had been living in an apartment in west Bangkok, is expected to be extradited to Japan this week.

Nagano police plan to arrest Sakamoto once he arrives. Police also intend to initiate a probe into losses in investments made into private equity and clarify how capital was allocated.

According to TBS News (Nov. 2), Sakamoto has admitted to embezzling the money and that none of the funds remain. Police in Thailand indicated that the suspect gave a number of women seven million yen in cash and jewelry.

The Nagano Prefecture Construction Industry Welfare Pension Fund was one of the 84 clients of AIJ Investment Advisors, the firm at the center of a $2 billion fraud that came to light in 2012. The investment firm had been entrusted with more than 30 percent of the fund’s assets, or approximately 6.5 billion yen.

Sakamoto was first given control of the Nagano pension fund assets in 1989. Prior to his disappearance, he was in charge of overseeing more than 20 billion yen in funds entrusted by 6,800 people.