Japanese billionaire called racist by own daughter in family feud


One of Japan’s wealthiest man, Han Chang-woo, founder and chairman of Maruhan, a leading operator of pachinko (slot machine) parlours across Japan, has sued his daughter Marina Haba, the eldest of his six children for the immediate return of a loan of 480 million yen (US$4.6 million) with interest that he granted her in September last year.

Ms. Haba, 51, alleges that her father is racist, with his disapproval of her relationship with an African-American man the reason why he cut her loose.

Mr. Han has also taken legal steps to seize all her assets and block her bank accounts.

But Ms. Haba claims that her father and his company Maruhan had unjustly withheld her rightful stock options and dividend payments, and intends to counter-sue in the Kyoto court.

She has launched court proceedings in the United States territory of Guam – where Maruhan has a subsidiary – to facilitate the document discovery process to build her case in Japan.

Mr. Han, 89, founded Maruhan, a leading player in Japan’s US$200 billion (S$270 billion) pachinko industry.

Maruhan’s success has made Mr. Han the country’s 19th wealthiest man, according to the Japan’s 50 Richest list compiled by Forbes this year. His net worth is estimated at US$3.8 billion.

The tycoon gave all six of his children 1.5 million shares each in the company many years ago, effectively making each of them multi-millionaires.

While her four brothers now hold top positions in Maruhan, Ms. Haba also stood to benefit from the generosity. She says in her court documents that she has been living a comfortable life from income reaped from company dividends.

But this steady stream of income was abruptly cut off, she claims, due to her father’s disapproval of her relationship with Mr. Joe Wallace, an African-American man.

“My father did not approve of my relationship with Joe. He never has,” Ms. Haba says in court documents seen last week by The Sunday Times. “My father has made it plain that he does not approve of my relationship with a Black man.”

Mr. Han reportedly denies the allegations, and Maruhan’s corporate social responsibility pledge says the company is committed to diversity and inclusion.

Mr. Han has never met Mr. Wallace, Ms. Haba says in her court documents, and contends that her father’s racially-motivated campaign to pressure her into making a choice between her husband and her livelihood violates her rights.

She intends to sue her father in the Kyoto District Court for the rightful return of her stock dividends worth an estimated US$300 million, as well as to reinstate her stock options.

As a first step, she has filed a court order in the United States territory of Guam, where Maruhan runs a subsidiary office, to force the company to produce documents that she needs to build her case.

This strategy is borne from the formidable hurdles she would face in Japan, where civil courts are typically friendly towards defendants.

If she succeeds, her case will potentially open the doors for document discovery in future civil lawsuits in Japan against companies or individuals with connections to the US.

“I was forced to hire counsel to try to correct the situation,” Ms Haba says in her court documents. “It was extremely painful that my father, who I have always loved and shown the greatest respect, would take this action against me in an effort to bring me under his control and to try to force me to leave my husband.”

Her father had filed two lawsuits at the Kyoto District Court, dated October 15 last year and March 24 this year, for the immediate return – with interest – of the 480 million yen personal loan granted on September 2 last year after she returned to Kyoto under financial duress. (Source: The Straits Times)