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Thursday, Sept. 7, 2006

Aneha enters guilty plea over buildings


Staff writer

Hidetsugu Aneha, the architect accused of fabricating earthquake-resistance data for dozens of buildings nationwide, pleaded guilty Wednesday to several charges, including falsifying structural-calculation documents.

"I am deeply sorry," Aneha, 49, said at the opening session of his trial at the Tokyo District Court. "I apologize to the residents of the buildings and the owners of the hotels."

Aneha -- dressed in a white shirt with a black grid pattern, blue cotton twill pants and no hairpiece -- also pleaded guilty to lending his name as a state-licensed, first-class architect to Chiba Prefecture-based designer Mikio Akiba for 4.45 million yen in kickbacks.

Akiba, 46, Aneha's codefendant in the trial, pleaded guilty to using the architect's name on his engineering blueprints starting in 2000.

Aneha also plead guilty to a perjury charge. He has been accused of lying under oath to a Lower House committee in December by telling them his construction falsifications began in 1998, when they actually started in 1996.

However, Aneha told the court that he didn't lie but merely made a mistake because the media frenzy kept him from getting to his files.

"I was not able to return home and lived in a hotel at the time," he told the court. "Without any data available, I had to rely on my uncertain memories."

The nation was shocked by revelations that earthquake-resistance data had been fabricated for a large number of buildings, many of them condominiums and hotels. Eager to see the notorious architect, 219 people lined up in front of the courthouse for the 60 public gallery seats.

Prosecutors told the court the disgraced architect falsified the calculations for four condos and two hotels in Tokyo, Kanagawa and Nara prefectures, beginning in February 2003.

They said the structures built based on those documents could collapse in an earthquake with an intensity of upper 5 on the Japanese intensity scale of 7.

Investigations by the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry have revealed Aneha was involved in fabricating data for 99 buildings in Tokyo and 17 other prefectures, beginning in 1996.

It is believed his aim was to cut construction costs by reducing the number of steel reinforcement rods.

A joint investigative team made up of Tokyo and neighboring prefectural police departments focused on only six of the buildings for the trial. Some of those have only a quarter of the structural reinforcement required by law.

Prosecutors said Aneha first claimed Kimura Construction Co. pressured him in 1998 to fabricate data for a condominium complex in Ota Ward, Tokyo. However, he later admitted it was his idea to fabricate the data and that there was no outside pressure.

"I knew that if I failed to make acceptable proposals, I wouldn't be able to get any new projects," media reports quote Aneha as having told police.



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