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Saturday, Feb. 16, 2008

Displaced dwellers sue over Aneha design scam

Staff writer

Fifty-two residents displaced from a condominium complex in Tokyo's Sumida Ward sued the ward and disgraced architects Hidetsugu Aneha and Kazuyoshi Sasaki for a combined ¥1 billion in damages Friday over the loss of their homes in connection with the earthquake-resistance falsification fraud.

"As consumers, we trusted that the building was properly designed and purchased the property. If that's not the case, the principle should be that all people concerned must take responsibility," former Grand Stage Higashi-Mukojima resident Taku Tanaka, 34, said after filing the suit with the Tokyo District Court.

In his criminal trial last November, the Tokyo High Court upheld the five-year prison sentence and ¥1.8 million fine issued by a lower court to Aneha, the architect who falsified quake-resistance data that were used to build six condominium complexes and hotels between 2003 and 2005.

The plaintiffs told reporters that those who move back in the complex, which is being rebuilt, will have to bear an average cost of ¥24 million per household in rebuilding costs to do so.

After their building was deemed unsafe in 2005, Sumida Ward ordered the occupants out and the structure was razed. Reconstruction began at the same site in December and is scheduled to be completed next February, the plaintiffs said.

They said Aneha is responsible because he calculated the condo's structural strength to make it appear as if the data met legal requirements, and that Sasaki is responsible for overlooking and using Aneha's data to design the building. Sumida Ward is liable, they said, for failing to check the flaws.

The Aneha scandal broke when the land ministry revealed in 2005 that the architect had faked quake-resistance data for 20 condominium complexes and a hotel in Tokyo and surrounding areas.

Investigators found that Aneha was involved in designing 99 substandard buildings in Tokyo and 17 other prefectures beginning in 1996.

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