Tetsuya Komuro gets suspended sentence

Producer pleaded guilty to fraud in $5 mil advance case

TOKYO -- A court in Osaka, Japan sentenced producer Tetsuya Komuro to three years in prison, suspended for five years, in his fraud trial, which had been ongoing since late last year.

Komuro, the legendary Avex 1990s J-pop producer, had pleaded guilty to the charges at Osaka district court and his lawyers had argued for the suspended sentence.

In July of 2006, Komuro offered to sell the copyrights to 806 of his songs to an investor. He collected a 500 million yen ($5.13 million) advance -- half the total agreed fee - in August of that year but did not in fact own the copyrights. He was charged with fraud last November.

The former hit maker had asked for leniency, offering an apology in court. Prosecutors, however, had pushed for a five-year prison term. Suspended sentences for cases involving more than 100 million yen ($1.02 million) in damages are unusual in Japan.

Avex president Masato Matsuura had already reimbursed the defrauded investor the full sum, plus interest, which amounted to 648 million yen ($6.65 million). Matsuura also asked the judge to grant Komuro a suspended sentence.

The judged concurred, stating that he thought Komuro had accepted responsibility, and noting that the debt had been paid and there was no social good to be gained from sending Komuro to prison.

In the 1990s Komuro turned the then mid-level record label Avex into a major player in Japan with a tremendous number of hits, especially in 1995 when songs by acts he produced held all of the top five positions in the Japanese singles charts.