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Ex-Sumitomo Trader Sentenced

March 26, 1998

TOKYO (AP) _ A former trader at Sumitomo Corp. was sentenced Thursday to eight years in jail for racking up huge losses in unauthorized copper futures trading.

Yasuo Hamanaka, who was said to have controlled 5 percent of the world’s copper market at one time, racked up $2.6 billion in losses over a 10-year period ending in 1995.

Tokyo District Court officials confirmed the sentence, which was reported by major Japanese media.

The disclosure of Hamanaka’s losses in 1996 roiled world copper markets, rocked the 300-year-old trading company and raised fresh questions about oversight at Japanese corporations.

Hamanaka, 50, pleaded guilty to the two charges against him on the opening day of his trial in February 1997.

Tokyo prosecutors charged him with having forged the signatures of his bosses four times to keep his off-the-books trading secret. He was also charged with swindling a Sumitomo subsidiary in Hong Kong out of $770 million to cover his losses.

Starting in 1985, Hamanaka and his boss at the time, Saburo Shimizu, were alleged to have made high-risk bets on the future direction of copper prices on the London copper market.

The losses snowballed as Hamanaka tried to single-handedly recoup trading setbacks with increasingly speculative deals, according to the case made by prosecutors.

Prosecutors had asked for a 10-year term. But Sumitomo said it was satisfied with the ruling.

``We are gratified he has been brought to justice for his pattern of criminal behavior,″ said Sumitomo spokeswoman Liz Mather, adding that the sentencing was ``fair and appropriate.″

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