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Friday, Oct. 6, 2006

Huser boss: No intent to bilk buyers of bad homes

Staff writer

The former president of bankrupt condominium developer Huser Ltd. and a key figure in the faulty building scandal pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of knowingly selling defective condominiums and thus defrauding the firm's clients out of 410 million yen.

"I never committed any crimes," Susumu Ojima told the Tokyo District Court. "I'm angry with the allegations because they're wrong."

The 53-year-old told the court that the firm did not know that architect Hidetsugu Aneha had fabricated the earthquake-resistance data for Grand Stage Fujisawa, a condo complex in Kanagawa Prefecture, when condos were delivered to 11 Huser clients last Oct. 28.

The focus of the trial will be whether Ojima knew about the defects before he handed over the keys to the new owners.

Prosecutors are claiming the government-designated inspection agency eHomes Inc. told the developer no later than Oct. 27 that the complex was not up to legal quake-resistance codes, and that Huser might have received the information earlier through other sources.

Ojima stands accused of being aware that the complex, built with Aneha's faked data, was not structurally sound and swindled the buyers, "wrecking many of the residents' lives," the prosecutors said in a statement.

When the 10-story building was inspected after Aneha's fraud was revealed, it was found to have only 15 percent of the structural integrity required under the Building Standards Law.

The top seven floors are now being razed, and the work is expected to be finished by January. Residents are meanwhile discussing whether to remodel the bottom three stories.

Ojima was arrested in May after the investigation into Aneha led to a probe of Huser.

During the investigation, Ojima admitted he had read a memo prior to delivery of the condos that showed the fabricated data used in the construction, but claimed he did not understood what the numbers meant.

During the more than 10 minutes he took to enter his plea, the former developer claimed the inspection agency's approval caused him to believe Grand Stage Fujisawa had the legally required structural strength.

"I never imagined that an architect would do such a thing," he said of Aneha's data fabrication.

Ojima said he delivered the apartments on Oct. 28 because not to have done so would have broken Huser's contracts with the buyers.

He apologized for allowing the apartments to be handed over, but claimed it was merely poor judgment, not fraud.

He also said the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry should be held responsible for the falsified data because they allowed private firms to do the final inspections.

Huser built 26 condo complexes, in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures, using Aneha's fabricated data.

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The Japan Times

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