FINGER IN THE PIE

Deputy mayor held over bid-rigging

Kyodo

Saitama Prefectural Police on Tuesday arrested Kawagoe Deputy Mayor Takahiko Hatsuno for allegedly meddling in the bidding for a municipal public works project.

Hatsuno, 56, is suspected of leaking the estimated cost of the project — the renewal of the ventilation system at a school catering center — to a local gas pipe company competing in the bidding held June 2, 2000.

Police also arrested Yukio Fukuda, 68, president of air conditioning company Tatsumi Soken, who allegedly received the information from Hatsuno in late May that year and passed it on to Showa Kogyo, the firm that won the order with a 40.2 million yen bid, which was 100,000 yen less than the projected price.

Fukuda served on the board of Showa Kogyo, Tatsumi Soken’s parent company, at the time.

Sites linked to the case, including the homes of the two suspects, were searched by investigators Tuesday morning.

Both suspects have reportedly admitted to the allegations. Police suspect Hatsuno received money from Fukuda in return for the favor.

Hatsuno had undergone police questioning since Saturday on suspicion of receiving bribes, but police decided to arrest him in connection with the bid allegations first because details of that part of the scheme were confirmed sooner. Hatsuno tendered his resignation Monday.

Kawagoe Mayor Koichi Funabashi expressed disbelief over the arrest of his right-hand man and promised efforts to determine the facts in the case.

“The city currently discloses the expected price of a public project as well as the lowest acceptable price, and it is unlikely for a similar incident to happen,” he claimed.

Hatsuno became Kawagoe’s deputy mayor in December 1998 and assumed the vice chairman post of the city panel in charge of designating public works contractors. In February 2001, he became chairman of the committee.

According to a private credit-reporting agency, Showa Kogyo was established in 1967 and has about 100 employees. It posted 2.9 billion yen in revenues in the fiscal year that ended in March.

The company is currently headed by a member of the Kawagoe Municipal Assembly after the former president died in May. Its board members include a former chairman of Saitama Prefecture’s public safety commission.