Ex-NOVA boss Sahashi suspected of profiting unfairly from video phone equipment

Former NOVA President Nozomu Sahashi has come under suspicion of unfairly profiting from the sale of overpriced video-phone equipment, a lawyer for the collapsed English-teaching company has announced.

Toshiaki Higashibatake, a lawyer serving as a preservation administrator for NOVA, made the announcement at a news conference in Osaka. The lawyer said a company that was in essence fully owned by Sahashi’s family was suspected of buying video phones from a manufacturer and selling them to NOVA for several times the original price, thereby allowing Sahashi to profit unfairly.

“We are investigating whether this constitutes aggravated breach of trust or misappropriation,” Higashibatake said, indicating that both civil and criminal legal proceedings were being considered.

The lawyer said the video phones were provided by communications firm Ginganet Co., which holds the patents to the video-phone system used in NOVA’s “Ochanoma Ryugaku” home lessons. NOVA reportedly invested 7 billion yen in the development of the service. Higashibatake said that over five years from July 2002, NOVA bought 100,000 units from Ginganet, paying out 8.2 billion yen.

Higashibatake said that immediately after NOVA collapsed and a protective court order was issued, Sahashi sold all of the shares he held in Ginganet and the travel firm NTB Co., including those held by his relatives, to a single person.

“I was hoping that he would take responsibility for his management of the company and entrust all of the shares to a preservation administrator, but what has happened is really regrettable. I’m furious about it,” the lawyer said.