Miura denies plotting to have wife murdered

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

A Japanese businessman denied Thursday in a Tokyo court that he conspired to have his wife murdered in Los Angeles eight years ago in order to collect more than $750,000 in life insurance.

Kazuyoshi Miura, who initially was regarded as a victim when he and his wife were shot during what appeared to be a street robbery, has also been charged with murder in Los Angeles. But Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner said at the time the charges were filed last May that Miura will not be prosecuted here if he is convicted of murder in Japan.

Miura, 41, already is serving a six-year sentence in Japan following his 1987 conviction for the attempted murder of his wife, Kazumi, in a hammer attack in their Los Angeles hotel room in August, 1981.

Girlfriend Convicted

Miura’s former girlfriend, pornographic film actress Michiko Yazawa, who wielded the hammer, was convicted by the Japanese court as an accomplice in that attempt and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison.

On Nov. 18, 1981--three months after the unsuccessful murder attempt--Miura and his wife were shot as they walked along 1st Street near the Department of Water and Power in downtown Los Angeles.

Miura was shot in the leg, but his wife, then 28, lapsed into a coma and died a year later in a Japanese hospital after she had been flown home in a U.S. military plane.

At first, Miura was seen as an unfortunate tourist victimized by random tragedy. He came under suspicion in 1984 when questions about the killing were raised in the Japanese news media.

Accused of being the gunman was Yoshikuni Okubo, 36, an Osaka native who graduated from USC then became Miura’s agent in Los Angeles, buying American fashions for export to Japan.

Conspiracy Alleged

Japanese prosecutors alleged in their letter of indictment filed last November that Miura took out a life insurance policy on his wife and then conspired with Okubo to kill her because he needed money to cover losses in his importing company.

According to his attorney, Yoichi Kitamura, Miura told the Tokyo district court on Thursday, “I did not kill nor swindle insurance money at all.”

The denial was made during the opening hearing in his trial. The next court session in the case will be April 28.

Okubo also denied any involvement in the shooting during the court hearing, the defense lawyer said.

Okubo admitted to the court, however, that he had violated Japanese laws on possession of firearms by keeping a rifle from 1982 to 1987, the attorney said.