–Excuse me, may I have a moment of your time? I’d like to talk to …… about Cambodia.
The handsome man, who was about to get out of the Lexus, turned his head to the reporter for a moment, but as soon as he heard the word “Cambodia,” his face changed color. He did not respond to any further questions, and the man – Shigeru Aoi, 44, president of ATOM – returned to the car and started it off.
Mr. Aoi is the grandson of the founder of the Marui Group and a thoroughbred who attended Keio University from kindergarten. After graduating from Keio University, he joined the surf brand O’Neill. After building his career at Deloitte Tohmatsu Consulting and the Industrial Revitalization Corporation of Japan, he was appointed vice president of the family office, ATOM, in 2011. He became president in 2007. Mr. Aoi is probably best known as the sergeant who won over the beautiful anchor Maïa Yamagishi, 34.
What is it about Cambodia that makes Mr. Aoi so interested in the country? In March this year, one of Mr. Aoi’s subordinates, K, was arrested on suspicion of fraud,” said Akihiro Takahashi, CEO of Atom Capital, a local financial company.
Capital provides loans secured by real estate, mainly to individuals. In 2005, I was approached by a Singapore-based fund with a takeover offer of $15 million (about 1.7 billion yen), and I approached Mr. Aoi. Mr. Aoi and I have been business partners for a long time, and I wanted him to buy the company anyway, as he owes me a great deal. Mr. Aoi, who had come to Cambodia for an inspection tour, readily agreed to buy the company himself.
K was dispatched to Cambodia to take over the business following the acquisition.
K is a Keio graduate like Mr. Aoi and a former banker. He was a former bank employee who accompanied our employees to check contract documents and learn about the processes leading up to the loan and its approval. He was an excellent young man, and we gave him access to our loan system (customer information and repayment history),” said Mr. Takahashi.
However, when K returned to Japan after completing the three-month business transfer from May to August 2006, something strange happened at Capital.
The number of non-performing loans suddenly started to increase. I thought it was strange, so I proceeded to investigate and found out that fictitious loans had been made using forged rights documents. As far as I was aware, the amount of damage amounted to 1.8 million dollars (about 200 million yen).
Mr. Takahashi gathered evidence and filed a complaint against K. Seven people, including K and three employees of Capital, were arrested and charged with fraud by the Phnom Penh Metropolitan Police. According to the judgment of the Phnom Penh District Court presented to this magazine by Mr. Takahashi, K was sentenced to two years and six months in prison.
It is hard to believe, but there is more to the story. According to Mr. Takahashi, “Mr. Aoi was also indicted.
As the investigation progressed, K was also charged with electronic data theft and breach of trust for accessing our loan system, taking data without permission, and causing damage to our company. On March 9, the authorities charged Mr. Aoi with electronic data theft and breach of trust, claiming that Mr. Aoi was involved in the crime and not K. alone.
According to the summons from the Phnom Penh District Court, Mr. Aoi was summoned twice, but “he did not respond,” Takahashi said.
After Mr. Aoi was indicted, I offered him a settlement. After Mr. Aoi was indicted, I asked him to settle the case. He ignored my e-mails and messages, but I was able to contact his representative and offered him $8 million (about 910 million yen) as compensation for lost opportunities and damages as a condition for dropping the charges.
At one point, we were on the verge of settling the case, but suddenly in September, K was acquitted and released, and we lost contact with the agent. The prosecutors appealed the case, claiming that it was unfair to overturn the verdict without an appeal hearing. The local media reported that K was released without notifying the victims or paying them back, using photos of K and Aoi’s faces and the sentence.
The judgment and summons from the Phnom Penh District Court provided to this magazine by Mr. Takahashi are “believed to be authentic or copies of the original,” according to a legal scholar living in Cambodia. Why did the takeover fall through, and is it true that K. was arrested and Aoi indicted? Why did he not respond to the court’s call? The public relations department of ATOM responded to this magazine as follows.
We have already obtained an acquittal for our employee K (his real name in the response). As for other matters, we will refrain from commenting on the details of the case as it is currently under criminal investigation with Mr. Takahashi as the suspect.
Mr. Takahashi, who is supposed to be the victim, is also being sued by Mr. Aoi. It was chaos.
The truth of the matter will be left in the hands of the magistrate, but what is certain is that the shiny new sergeant is in deep trouble.
From FRIDAY, December 3, 2021 issue.
PHOTO： Takayuki Ogawauchi Toshikatsu Tanaka