April 4, 2013
WHEN Takafumi Horie was released from prison on March 27th, he hit Facebook, expanding his network from some 1,700 contacts to 3,300 a week later. The former boss of Livedoor, an internet firm, was convicted of fraud and jailed in 2011. But prison did not stop the entrepreneur, nicknamed Horiemon for his resemblance to a popular cartoon cat, from gathering almost 1m Twitter followers. He lost weight behind bars, but not his knack for publicity.Now Japan is waiting to see what he will do next. ?He still has a lot of influence; he?s an internet visionary,? says a Japanese internet executive, who prefers not to broadcast his friendship with Mr Horie so soon after his release.Some businessmen think Mr Horie was unfairly singled out. In 2006 the authorities raided Livedoor and found evidence that it had fabricated earnings using share splits and a series of fake companies. Such accounting tricks, alas, are common in Japan. Livedoor was hit with a record-breaking fine and forced to delist its shares.Other firms have been treated more leniently. Olympus, a camera-maker which covered up giant investment losses, is still listed. Potential buyers have been shooed away and it remains to be seen whether anyone will be locked up, notes Peter Tasker of Arcus Research, a consultancy in Tokyo. As Mr Horie tweeted from prison, Olympus was ten times bigger and the fraud went on for far...
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