Builder in Aneha scam can walk free

by Jun Hongo

The Tokyo District Court handed former Kimura Construction Co. President Moriyoshi Kimura a suspended three-year prison term Friday for window-dressing his company’s accounts and knowingly selling inadequately earthquake-resistant condos designed by disgraced architect Hidetsugu Aneha.

Kimura, 75, a key figure in the building safety scandal centered on Aneha, had pleaded guilty of violating the construction industry law for cooking his firm’s books but had denied involvement in the fraud.

Friday’s sentence, which was suspended for five years, stated that Aneha bore the principal responsibility for the building safety scandal in which he consciously faked the blueprints on construction projects.

But presiding Judge Masanori Tsunoda found Kimura guilty of fraud on grounds that his subsequent crime was a self-centered offense that carried serious criminal liability.

“Many lives were endangered by his act, which took no consideration for the safety of others. The crime was vicious and lacked even the minimal disposition required for those involved in construction work,” Judge Tsunoda said.

The court said that on Nov. 3, 2005, Kimura handed over the completed Sun Hotel Nara in Nara Prefecture to its owner and accepted a final payment of ¥225 million despite having learned by at least Oct. 28 of the building’s deficiency.

The hotel was forced to shut down three weeks after its opening when an investigation revealed that it had only 44 percent of the legally required quake-resistant structure. It reopened last month after reinforcement construction was carried out.

Aneha, who designed the construction blueprint, was found guilty of fabricating earthquake-resistance data for a combined six condo high-rises and hotels and handed a five-year prison term and a fine of ¥1.8 million last December. He has appealed the ruling and the case is ongoing.

Kimura, the one-time president of the now-defunct Kumamoto Prefecture-based builder, had claimed since he went on trial last September that he believed “the building had been certified safe” and that he “never tried to deceive anyone (in order) to receive money.”

But the court rejected his arguments, finding that the accused bore the heaviest liability as the one in charge of the construction giant.

Kimura was also convicted of falsifying the company’s financial statements in June 2004 to show it had a net worth of ¥400 million when it actually had liabilities that exceeded assets by ¥1.3 billion. The deception was committed to obtain an operating license from the government.

Kimura, arrested in April 2006 and out on ¥10.5 million bail since November, did not comment on the ruling Friday. His lawyer, Akira Nozaki, told reporters that the court’s judgment was “not acceptable” and he would discuss with his client the possibility of filing an appeal.

Crimes committed by the contractor came to light when Togo Fujita, president of eHomes Inc., which conducted structural engineering safety checks, revealed in October 2005 that Aneha had been fabricating earthquake-resistance data. Six people have been charged in connection with the building safety scandal.

Aneha has appealed his ruling but three others have had their suspended prison terms finalized. Susumu Ojima, former president of Huser Ltd. who was charged with knowingly selling Aneha’s defective condos, is still awaiting a district court verdict.