Tue, Sep 12, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Bogus royals jailed for bamboozling wedding guests

DECEPTIVE DUO A couple were sentenced to more than two years in jail each after netting US$25,000 in gifts after pretending to be royalty


As Japan celebrates a long-awaited prince born last week, a fake prince and princess were jailed yesterday on charges that they scammed royal well-wishers out of gifts.

Yasuyuki Kitano, 44, had told members of an exclusive Tokyo club that he was "Prince Satohito" and threw a royal-style extravagant wedding with his partner Harumi Sakamoto, 47.

They persuaded 61 people to attend their wedding in April 2003 and shower them with US$25,000 of gifts, according to the ruling.

"It's vicious that they took advantage of people who revere the imperial family," Tokyo District Court presiding Judge Takaaki Oshima said.

Kitano and Sakamoto were each sentenced to two years and two months in jail. An accomplice was given a suspended term. Kitano said he was a descendant of the Arisugawa clan. But the clan -- which began in 1625 with Yoshihito, the seventh son of Emperor Goyozei -- died out in the early 1900s, according to the Imperial Household Agency.

The couple pleaded not guilty. Kitano said he sincerely believed a member of the imperial family who told him he was his long-lost son and that he should take the name Prince Satohito.

Sakamoto told the court she believed Kitano's story because she was in love with him.

The judge dismissed their arguments as "baseless and fabricated."

He said Sakamoto was mo-tivated to go along with Kitano's story because she wanted to "have an extravagant wedding party and the status of a wife in the royal family."

Many Japanese show deep respect for the imperial family, the longest-running royal line in the world. Last week Princess Kiko gave birth to a boy, giving the imperial family its first new male heir in four decades.

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