Prosecutors Seek 20-Month Sentence for ufotable Founder Hikaru Kondo Over Tax Evasion

posted on by Alex Mateo
Hikaru Kondo admitted to tax evasion in court in September

The prosecutors are seeking a 20-month prison sentence for anime studio ufotable's founder, representative director, and president Hikaru Kondo in the ongoing tax evasion case in Tokyo. The prosecution claimed on Monday that Kondo "directed the company to repeatedly commit accounting fraud when profits were high" and initially "denied the company's responsibility to pay taxes in good faith." The court is scheduled to deliver its verdict on December 10.

Kondo admitted to the charge of violating the Corporation Tax Act and Consumption Tax Act by failing to pay 138 million yen (about US$1.25 million) in taxes at a preliminary hearing by the Tokyo District Court on September 17. During the same hearing, Kondo issued an apology, admitting that he thought his tax evasion would "not bring trouble to [ufotable]."

The prosecution said in its opening statement that ufotable and Kondo hid part of the income from the company's cafes and merchandise from 2015 to 2018 in order to buffer against future downturns in business. The studio allegedly hid about 441 million yen (about US$4 million) in income.

After the formal indictment of Kondo and ufotable on July 9, ufotable acknowledged the indictment of the Tokyo Public Prosecutor's Office, and gave assurances that the company had already filed a corrected tax return and paid the appropriate amount.

Previous reports have varied slightly in the amount that ufotable owes: the formal indictment in July stated 137 million yen (about US$1.24 million) in taxes, while previous reports by The Mainichi Shimbun newspaper in 2020 alleged 139 million yen (about US$1.28 million) in taxes. Both of these accounts differ from the 138 million yen (about US$1.25 million) reported in September's preliminary hearing.

The Mainichi Shimbun reported last year that Kondo purportedly hid about 30% of the proceeds from some of ufotable's anime-themed restaurants in Tokyo and stored them in a private safe at home.

Bungeishunju's Weekly Bunshun Digital magazine reported in April 2019 that ufotable allegedly owes 400 million yen (about US$3.57 million) in taxes, citing a source from the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau. The report noted that ufotable is suspected of supposedly misappropriating funds raised from a charity auction for the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, a violation of the Penal Code that carries a potential prison sentence of no more than 10 years. The Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau conducted a search of ufotable's offices earlier in March that year as part of an investigation, but did not end up filing charges.

Kondo eventually resigned from his role of chairman of the executive committee for Machi Asobi, the Tokushima event for which ufotable was once the main organizer, in May 2019.

Kondo founded ufotable in 2000, and the studio is perhaps best known for its recent Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba television anime and its accompanying hit film Demon Slayer – Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train, as well as the various anime adaptations of Type-Moon's Fate franchise, including Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works. The studio recently concluded the third and final film in the Fate/stay night: Heaven's Feel anime film trilogy in August. The studio has also made anime adaptations of Type-Moon's The Garden of Sinners, and the Katsugeki: Touken Ranbu television anime.

In addition, the company sells merchandise and goods for the various anime it has produced, and runs a number of cafés through which it sells some of its merchandise.

Source: TBS News via Hachima Kikо̄

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