Measuring the man

September 06, 1991|By John Woodruff

If a man is best judged by the lives he touches, here is a partial list of names by which to measure Susumu Ishii:

Setsuya Tabuchi and Yoshihisa Tabuchi. They are unrelate except as chairman and president, respectively, of Nomura Securities, the world's biggest stock brokerage. Big Tabuchi and Little Tabuchi were the acknowledged lords of Japan's immensely lucrative securities business until May. Since then, they have resigned in disgrace and have spent the summer answering police, parliamentary and regulators' questions about the help Nomura gave Mr. Ishii's gang in a multibillion-dollar manipulation of stock in Tokyu Corp., an $11 billion-a-year conglomerate.

Hiroyasu Watanabe and Jun Saotome. Until July, they were the president and managing director, respectively, of Tokyo Sagawakyubin, a big trucking company that paid about $58 million for "memberships" in the Iwama Country Club, which Mr. Ishii's gang owns. Buying multimillion-dollar golf memberships as executive fringe benefit is not uncommon in Japan. But the catch was that the "memberships" were for a course that is open to the public. The privately held trucking firm's shareholders called a meeting and threw the two executives out on grounds that by giving in to the mob, they had "disturbed the society." Nomura and Nikko, another brokerage house that helped Mr. Ishii's gang in the Tokyu scam, are also among a dozen or more companies reported to have "bought" Iwama "memberships."

Toshiki Kaifu. Japan's prime minister looked like a dying duck until the summer turned into a parade of scandals. Now most bets are that amid the avalanche of sleaze, even the governing Liberal Democratic Party's old-line kingmakers won't dare get back to politics as usual by dumping "Mr. Clean."

Ryutaro Hashimoto. Three months ago, Japan's finance minister was the man many thought might beat Mr. Kaifu this fall and

become the next prime minister. Instead, he has spent the summer saying again and again that it isn't quite time yet for him to resign in disgrace over his ministry's failure to regulate Nomura and Nikko.

Prescott Bush. Aides to President Bush's 68-year-old businessman brother have denied that he knew the yakuza was behind the deal, but not that he helped companies owned by Mr. Ishii's gang to buy into an American financial services business three years ago. Kyodo, the Japanese news service, reported last month that Mr. Bush signed a $2.5 million guarantee enabling a yakuza-controlled firm to buy a controlling share of Asset Management, International Financing & Settlement Ltd. of New York. For arranging the deal, Mr. Bush received a $250,000 finders' fee and was promised a three-year consulting contract at $250,000 a year, according to papers reporters have obtained from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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