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Wed, Nov 08, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Livedoor founder denies any knowledge of fraud

AFP , TOKYO

Japan's disgraced Internet mogul Takafumi Horie denied yesterday any knowledge of fraud at his once high-flying Livedoor firm and said that he had not been in total command of its activities.

"It's not true that I knew everything about the whole group," the former brash young entrepreneur said as he was questioned for the first time during his trial at the Tokyo District Court for alleged securities law violations.

"I was especially keen on the businesses which were losing money. There is no need to pay attention to businesses which have earned money," he said in a report by Jiji Press news agency.

The 34-year-old founder of Livedoor is accused of falsely reporting a pretax profit of ?5.03 billion (US$42.95 million) for the year to September 2004 to hide actual losses of ?310 million.

Horie said the first he knew of the prosecutors' investigation into the company was in December last year when he received a telephone call from a former operating officer of Livedoor.

"I didn't understand at all [what he was talking about]. I thought he'd gone mad," the defendant said.

Horie, who as Livedoor boss shunned suits and ties in favor of T-shirts, appeared in court in a dark blue jacket, white shirt and blue tie -- as he did at the start of the trial in September when he pleaded innocent to the charges.

News of the Livedoor probe in January sent the Tokyo stock market briefly into freefall, forcing Asia's largest bourse to close early for the first time ever as a flood of sell orders threatened to swamp the computer system.

Four other executives of the once high-flying Livedoor firm have already admitted to fraud allegations. However, Horie's case took longer to come to court because he has maintained his innocence.

A verdict in Horie's trial is expected sometime from early next year.

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