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Saturday, July 8, 2006
EHomes head admits lying to gain building inspector license
By JUN HONGO
Togo Fujita, president of eHomes Inc. and a key figure in the building safety fraud centered on architect Hidetsugu Aneha, pleaded guilty Friday to falsifying financial documents in 2001 in order gain state certification to conduct structural engineering safety checks, many of which it apparently failed.
At the first session of his Tokyo District Court trial, Fujita, 44, admitted his company falsely stated it had 50 million yen in capital when it had only 23 million yen. The 50 million yen figure is the minimum required for certification.
"I am deeply sorry and apologize to those involved," Fujita told the judges.
Following the indictment in May that charged eHomes with inflating its capital, prosecutors also said the company did not have enough personnel for the type of work it was doing and "lacked the ability to conduct sufficient inspections."
But Fujita said during his plea that the falsification of financial documents was "completely unrelated" to the Aneha scandal, stating that it was "unjust" for the prosecutors to tie the two issues together. EHomes failed, however, to spot faked quake-resistance data in 37 of the 99 buildings that Aneha designed since 1996.
"It was our highest priority to conduct inspections accurately and efficiently. Those main concerns were never neglected in order to make a profit," Fujita claimed.
The head of the Tokyo-based company was arrested April 26 after he fell under scrutiny in connection with the Aneha scandal.
Fujita finally reported Aneha's violations to the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry last October, but he fell under suspicion for not spotting the false data when they were first presented.
Aneha, who was also arrested in April, told prosecutors the eHomes checks were "extremely undemanding" and they would "never find out about the alteration (of documents)" with such cursory inspections.
While eHomes had argued that it was impossible to spot the falsified data, prosecutors believe its carelessness allowed the fraud to snowball.
EHomes' inspection license was revoked by the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry in May, and it subsequently went out of business.
The ministry said that for a firm to gain certification to inspect buildings, it has to have a certain number of state-approved professionals.