The Supreme Court in Japan ruled on Thursday that Nozomu Sahashi, the disgraced founder of Nova, an English language school, would be sentenced to two years in prison for embezzlement, upholding a previous ruling. Now bankrupt and defunct, Nova was once seen as one of Japan’s largest, most popular English institutes. Originally arrested in 2008, 61 year old Sahashi was found to have illegally taken 320 million yen (approx. $3.9 million at current exchange rates) from employee benefits.
The Osaka High Court first issued the two-year prison sentence in 2010. An official with the Supreme Court says Sahashi’s punishment will begin in several days, after the necessary logistical steps are taken. At the time of his arrest, investigators found he was using the money to reimburse students who left the school but had paid for lessons in advance. Sahashi claimed he never did anything illegal or used the money for personal interests. But the affiliate firm that was responsible for the refunds was wholly and privately owned by him, having no relation to Nova.
At its peak, Nova employed 6,000 people, with 4,500 of them being foreigners, and roughly 400,000 students. The company, founded in 1981 was seen as a place where those in Japan with little to no language teaching skills could make a living, especially during the economic boom of the 1980s and leading into the 90s. But in 2007 the government ordered that Nova partially shut down after it was discovered they weren’t issuing enough refunds for students. Many employees were not surprised over Sahashi’s arrest or Nova’s collapse, with some stating that the founder never gave any apologies and labor unions alleging charges of teacher mistreatment.[via Straits Times]