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Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2006

Key defense bid-rigger gets 1 1/2 years


Staff writer

The Tokyo District Court found three former officials of the Defense Facilities Administration Agency guilty Monday of bid-rigging, including on construction assignments at U.S. bases in Japan, and sentenced the key player to prison.

Mamoru Ikezawa, 57, former technical councilor for the facilities agency, was sentenced to 1 1/2 years for violating a law that prohibits unfair bidding or auctioning through fraud or coercion.

Takayoshi Kawano, 58, Ikezawa's successor in the post, and Takashige Matsuda, 53, a former facilities inspection officer in the agency's general affairs department, received 1 1/2-year terms, but they were suspended for three years.

Presiding Judge Tsutomu Aoyagi condemned the bid-rigging as "an act that ignored the responsibility and the mission of a government official," and said Ikezawa bore greater blame than the other two because he "took the initiative" in the crimes and "skillfully covered up the misdeeds."

Aoyagi added that since bid-rigging had been going on before the three were involved, the agency itself bears a grave responsibility.

The three officials were accused of playing key roles in rigging bids for tenders of three air-conditioning installation projects ordered by the facilities agency between November 2004 and March 2005. The trio allegedly conspired with employees of Taikisha Ltd., Shinryo Corp. and Sanki Engineering Co., so the firm could form a joint venture and win the contract for the Defense Agency's Ichigaya complex in Tokyo.

Four men, including a retired facilities agency official who worked at Taikisha, were fined 500,000 yen in February for conspiring in the scam.

Ikezawa, Kawano and Matsuda, who were arrested in January, pleaded guilty when their trial opened in May.

A probe found the three were involved in 10 additional bid-rigging cases, including projects at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture between January 2004 and March 2005.

The contract, which included relocating a runway, was awarded to a joint venture led by Kajima Corp., Toa Corp. and Tekken Corp.

The three were also found guilty of taking part in bid-rigging for two pier construction projects at the U.S. Navy base in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, in March 2004.

"An enormous sum of tax money was misused in the crime," prosecutors said in a statement during the trial, in which they demanded two-year prison terms for both Ikezawa and Kawano and 18 months for Matsuda.

The prosecutors alleged there were at least 259 instances in which construction projects worth nearly 145 billion yen in total were illegally fixed between fiscal 2003 and 2004.

Prosecutors said bid-rigging took place for nearly 30 years and routinely involved agency officials who granted favors to certain firms in exchange for "amakudari" (descent from heaven) positions after their retirement.



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