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LEAD: High court upholds death sentence in murder-for-insurance case.

TOKYO, Jan. 13 Kyodo

(EDS: UPDATING WITH MORE INFO, COMMENTS)

The Tokyo High Court upheld Thursday a death sentence imposed on a former moneylender for murdering two men and attempting to murder a third for life insurance money in Saitama Prefecture.

Shigeru Yagi, 55, of the city of Honjo, who has pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder charges, will appeal the ruling, according to his lawyers.

In upholding the ruling handed down in October 2002 by the Saitama District Court, Presiding Judge Masaru Suda said confessions made by three women who were indicted as Yagi's accomplices are trustworthy.

The women -- one sentenced to life in prison and the others to 15 and 12 years in prison -- have said Yagi gave instructions to them on the murders of the two people and the attempted murder of another. They are now serving their sentences.

''We can presume to a certain degree that the defendant committed the acts for insurance money'' because the victims were covered by insurance policies with a huge amount of benefits, Suda said.

According to the high court ruling, Yagi conspired with the three women to kill a 45-year-old man in June 1995 by poisoning him with aconite in a sweet-bean-paste bun they gave him to eat.

He collected 302 million yen in life insurance on the man.

They also murdered a 61-year-old man by giving him doses of cold medicine and Japanese sake over a period beginning in August 1998, resulting in his death in May 1999, the high court said.

Yagi was also found guilty of the attempted murder of another man in the same manner.

Yagi's defense lawyers had argued that there is no evidence that the 45-year-old man was killed with aconite and that it is impossible to kill a person with huge dosages of cold medicine.

The high court, however, rejected the argument regarding aconite.

Yagi did not appear in the courtroom Thursday.
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Date:Jan 18, 2005
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