Meter companies raided as bid-rigging probe widens

Authorities from the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office simultaneously raided on Feb. 5 more than a dozen offices of firms making water meters to collect evidence over alleged bid-rigging in connection with Tokyo Metropolitan Government contracts.

The raids followed action taken Feb. 4 by the Fair Trade Commission to file a criminal complaint with the prosecutor’s office against 25 firms that make water meters and 34 company officials for allegedly violating the Antimonopoly Law. Prosecutors plan to carry out similar searches Feb. 6 and Feb. 7, investigative sources said.

On Feb. 5, investigators searched the head office of Kimmon Mfg. in Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward, the Tokyo branch office of Nagoya-based Aichi Tokei Denki Co. and a dozen other locations in the metropolitan area where the companies being investigated have head offices or branches. Five of the companies are listed on stock exchanges, including Kimmon Mfg., Aichi Tokei Denki, Richo Seiki Co. and OKK Corp. The sources said the district public prosecutor’s office is expected to decide whether to indict the company officials by March 31, the end of the current fiscal year.

According to the FTC’s investigation, sales staff from the 25 companies met in April each year between fiscal 1994 and 1996 and made adjustments to select contract winners and the winning prices beforehand for household water meter contracts for Tokyo’s Waterworks Bureau.