Photo/Illutration The Mangamura website was closed in April 2018. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

FUKUOKA—The suspected mastermind behind a pirated manga website that caused heavy financial damage to publishers and artists was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a fine and back taxes.

The Fukuoka District Court on June 2 found Romi Hoshino, 29, guilty of violating the Copyright Law and other charges.

During the trial, prosecutors described Hoshino as the mastermind behind the Mangamura website because he instructed others involved in the operation to update the contents. The website was closed in April 2018.

In its ruling, the district court said Hoshino “played the most important role” in operating the website and rejected all the arguments made by the defense.

Hoshino stared straight at the presiding judge while the verdict was read.

According to the indictment, Hoshino made available 516 episodes of the “Kingdom” manga and 866 episodes of “One Piece” for free on the Mangamura website in May 2017.

Hoshino was also accused of asking companies that bought ads on the website to transmit about 62.57 million yen ($570,000) in advertising revenues between December 2016 and November 2017 to an overseas account in an attempt to conceal the earnings from Japanese authorities.

That led to the second charge of concealing criminal profits in a bank account abroad in violation of the anti-organized crime law.

He was fined 10 million yen and ordered to pay back taxes of about 62.57 million yen.

The advertising fees were accumulated by clicks of readers. Prosecutors argued that Hoshino offered the manga for free to attract more readers, thereby increasing advertising revenues.

The Mangamura website is also believed to have used hidden ads, a scam in which one click by a reader is counted as a view for all ads concealed underneath.

Three other individuals who were involved in operating the Mangamura website have had their penalties finalized for violating the Copyright Law.

The website is estimated to have caused hundreds of billions of yen in financial damage to Japanese publishing companies.

A criminal complaint was filed against the operators of the Mangamura website by a major publishing company on behalf of manga artists because of the losses caused.

Hoshino was detained by Philippine immigration authorities in July 2019 and extradited to Japan.