Saturday, March 29, 2008

Lehman hit by fraud involving Marubeni employees

TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers was defrauded of some $353.1 million after it was caught in a scam in Japan, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters on Saturday, and trading house Marubeni said some of its staff were involved.

Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS - News) was also caught in the scam, daily Asahi Shimbun said on Saturday, citing sources familiar with the issue. The full scale of the fraud was not immediately known.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported on Saturday that senior officials at medical consulting firm Asclepius Ltd, a wholly owned unit of LTT Bio-Pharma Co (Tokyo:4566.T - News), sought to raise funds from investors for the purchase of hospital equipment.

The newspaper said the fraud involved fake documents from Japan's fifth-largest trading firm Marubeni Corp (Tokyo:8002.T - News).

Lehman was not repaid the amount at the end of February, the Nihon Keizai said, without citing sources.

"Lehman Brothers Japan Inc. today confirmed that it is working closely with the authorities to seek full recovery of funds it believes to have been fraudulently misappropriated from transactions in which an affiliate provided financing," Lehman said in a statement on Saturday.

Lehman (NYSE:LEH - News) said it has informed the police and is taking legal action against Marubeni.

"We are confident in our legal claim which we will pursue until we receive repayment from Marubeni," said Matthew Russell, Lehman Brothers head of Corporate Communications, Asia-Pacific, in a statement sent to Reuters.

Lehman declined to comment on the sum of money involved.

A Marubeni spokesman said "Earlier this month we fired two contract employees for their involvement in using false documents with Marubeni's name on them to illegally collect money from investors and we have verbally reported the case to the police."

He said there was "no involvement by Marubeni as a company."

No comment was immediately available from Goldman Sachs.

LTT Bio-Pharma was not immediately available for comment.

The company announced on March 19 that bankruptcy proceedings filed by Asclepius were approved by the Tokyo District Court and also announced that Asclepius was suspected of being involved in illegal dealings.

Kyodo News said Asclepius dismissed its then president on March 7.

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