TOKYO, Feb. 18–(Kyodo) _ The Tokyo District Court on Friday sentenced a used car dealer to a three-year term, suspended for five years, for selling atopic ointment in 2003 and 2004 without the government’s authorization, in conspiracy with former members of the AUM Shinrikyo cult.
Presiding Judge Tetsuo Kamioka also ordered Kiyoshi Nakano, 37, a non AUM member, to pay a 2 million yen fine. Prosecutors had demanded four years in prison and a 2 million yen fine.
Kamioka said in handing down the ruling that Nakano exploited people suffering from atopy, but said Nakano was remorseful over his action.
The judge also said one of the reasons for the suspended term was Nakano’s small degree of involvement in the crime, which was carried out on a large scale and in a systematic manner by the group.
Prosecutors in their closing arguments had said Nakano played a central role in importing the ointment, and that his involvement has a big social impact given that he conspired with a group that is under government surveillance.
Nakano was charged with fraud and violating the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law.
According to the ruling, Nakano was already importing ointment from China and selling it without government permission around May 2001. In 2002, he met Takashi Inoue, who then headed the cult’s Tokyo training center, through yoga, and they began selling such drugs after Inoue proposed the idea.
Inoue, 36, is facing a separate trial in connection with the same case.
Nakano falsely advertised the ointment, saying that it contained only natural ingredients when it contained steroids. It was sold to about 900 people nationwide for a total of about 23 million yen between February 2003 and April 2004, the ruling said.
Last month, six people, including four former AUM members, were found guilty over the same crime.
AUM renamed itself Aleph in January 2000, apparently to distance itself from the tainted image caused by its past crimes. It remains under surveillance by the Justice Ministry’s Public Security Intelligence Agency.