Yuji Naka, co-creator of the Sonic the Hedgehog series and former boss of Sonic Team at Sega, was given a suspended prison sentence for insider trading following a trial in Japan.
According to IGN Japan, 57-year-old Naka was found guilty of violating Japan’s Financial Instruments and Exchange Act for insider trading in connection with the development of a game for publisher Square Enix.
Following a trial held at the Tokyo District Court on July 7, 2023, Judge Madoka Hiruta issued a two-and-a-half year prison sentence, suspended for four years, as well as two fines of ¥2 million ($14,000 approx) and ¥170 million ($1.1 million approx).
Naka was arrested in November for suspected insider trading relating to an investment made while working at Square Enix. He allegedly bought 10,000 shares in developer Aiming, at a value of around $20,000, ahead of the announcement of the Dragon Quest Tact mobile game in partnership with Square Enix.
Insider trading is the buying and selling of stocks with confidential or non-public information, usually with the intention to make money, and is illegal in Japan.
Issuing the ruling, Judge Hiruta said: “He was known as one of the world’s most famous game developers, and had the authority to access joint development information. It has damaged the fairness and soundness of the stock market and the trust of investors.”
Naka is arguably most known for co-creating Sonic the Hedgehog and leading Sega’s Sonic Team, but was also lead programmer on other games including Nights into Dreams, Phantasy Star Online, and more. He eventually joined Square Enix but left in June 2021, not long after the release of his latest game Balan Wonderland.