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Japanese Athletes Evade Income Taxes

Sat., Dec. 27, 1997

Five of 10 Japanese baseball players charged with income tax evasion pleaded guilty Friday at the first and only hearing of their trial.

The five included Hiroki Kokubo, 26, the RBI king for the 1997 Pacific League season, Kyodo News reported.

The players were accused of concealing income and evading tax by falsely recording expenses on receipts forged by a tax consultant in the central city of Nagoya.

Prosecutors said Kokubo, of the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, evaded about $215,400 in income tax in 1994, the largest sum allegedly evaded by any of the 10 players.

“I apologize deeply for trying to escape paying tax, which is the most important obligation for a citizen,” Kokubo was quoted by Kyodo as saying after the hearing.

At the trial in Nagoya, the prosecution demanded a one-year prison term and a fine of $73,000 for Kokubo.

The four other players are Daiei pitcher Hidekazu Watanabe, 26, Yokohama BayStars outfielder Toshio Haru, 27, Yokohama catcher Yoshifumi Kawasaki, 26, and Yokohama infielder Takashi Manei, 25, the report said.

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