Japanese Mogul Kenji Osano Dies at 69 : Businessman Was Convicted of Perjury in Lockheed Scandal
Kenji Osano, a former auto mechanic who, with the help of political influence, built up a business empire that included hotels in Los Angeles and Hawaii, died here Monday of complications arising from an operation for cancer of the pancreas. He was 69.
Osano was convicted of perjury involving testimony before the parliament in connection with the Lockheed bribery scandal of 1976, but he continued to wield great influence in Japan’s aviation industry as a major stockholder in the country’s three largest airlines.
He owned Kokusai Kogyo Corp., a conglomerate that controls 70 companies with assets estimated at more than $18 billion, including the Sheraton-Town House in Los Angeles. His close friendship with former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka and his ties with other figures in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party led the Japanese news media to call him a “political businessman.”
Prominent business and political leaders, among them Deputy Prime Minister Shin Kanemaru, appeared at Osano’s home Monday to pay their respects.
The perjury charges against Osano grew out of testimony in which he said repeatedly in answer to questions, “That is not in my memory.” The words have since come into common use as a joke in Japan.
Osano was convicted for denying that he had accepted $200,000 from Lockheed Corp. for helping persuade All Nippon Airways to buy Lockheed L-1011 Tristars in 1972 and for denying that Tanaka had asked him to intervene with the airline. Osano appealed the conviction to the Supreme Court.
At his death, Osano was the eighth-largest individual stockholder in All Nippon Airways. He was the largest individual shareholder in Japan Air Lines and a major stockholder in Toa Domestic Airlines.
Tanaka was convicted in October, 1983, of accepting a $1.8-million bribe from Lockheed Aircraft Corp. during his 1972-74 term in office. He suffered a stroke in February, 1985, and has not appeared in public since, although he retains his seat in parliament. Like Osano, Tanaka has appealed his conviction.
Osano was the second of 16 defendants in the Lockheed scandal to die before court proceedings ended.