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Ex-Sumitomo Copper Trader Resurfaces

Commodities: His former employer blames Yasuo Hamanaka for $1.8 billion in losses. He refuses to discuss the case but says he'll comment on it later.

August 12, 1996|From Reuters

TOKYO — Yasuo Hamanaka, the veteran Sumitomo copper trader at the heart of a current financial scandal, ended eight weeks of hiding Sunday. He said that he is doing well and that he has been living quietly in Tokyo.

In a brief interview with Reuters here, Hamanaka said that he will comment on the scandal "sometime in the future."

He said he has had no contact with Sumitomo Corp., his former employer, since his firing June 14, a day after the company announced that it had lost $1.8 billion because of what it said were unauthorized copper trades, mainly by Hamanaka.

The interview is the first he has given since the scandal broke June 13. His whereabouts have not been known since then. People at Sumitomo repeatedly denied that they knew where he was.

Asked if he had been interviewed by investigators sent from London, the center of world copper trading, Hamanaka replied: "No comment."

Shortly after the scandal broke, the British Serious Fraud Office launched extensive inquiries in Britain and sent representatives to Japan. About the same time, a grand jury was convened in New York to begin investigations in the United States.

Hamanaka was known for his unassuming nature despite the amount of power he wielded in the copper market. Still, for a man alleged to be at the center of one of the biggest financial scandals in history, Hamanaka appeared remarkably relaxed during the interview. He was dressed in blue trousers and a polo shirt, he spoke in a soft voice, and he smiled regularly.

"I am fine," he said, but he refused to discuss the case. "I don't want to make any comment on that issue. I will talk to you in detail at the right time in the future."

Hamanaka said he had been living quietly at an undisclosed Tokyo location and that reports that he had been hiding in a hotel in Osaka, Japan, were not true.

Hamanaka spent all of his 26 professional years since college graduation at Sumitomo. Since his firing, he said, he has spent most of his time reading.

Sumitomo alleges that Hamanaka opened secret accounts to trade without the knowledge of his superiors and that these activities cost the giant trading house $1.8 billion.

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