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The number and value of government construction projects won by Wakachiku Construction Co. were roughly equivalent to the same figures for other authorized bidders both before and after Eiichi Nakao became construction minister in 1996, the current construction minister said Friday.

Citing a report drawn up by the Construction Ministry, Chikage Ogi told reporters there was no evidence that the ministry extended favors to Wakachiku despite the alleged bribes it gave to Nakao.

The Tokyo-based construction firm is suspected of giving 30 million yen in October 1996 to Nakao, who was arrested June 30 on suspicion of accepting the money in connection with the inclusion of Wakachiku on the list of the ministry’s designated bidders.

The statute of limitations for accepting bribes is five years in Japan, but the statute for extending bribes is only three years.

On Tuesday, the ministry banned Wakachiku from bidding on public works projects until April 3, 2001.

According to the report, Wakachiku was awarded projects worth about 16.6 billion yen from fiscal 1995 to fiscal 1999.

The firm won projects worth approximately 4.3 billion yen in fiscal 1995, 2.1 billion yen in fiscal 1996, 2.2 billion yen in fiscal 1997, 5.7 billion yen in fiscal 1998 and 2.3 billion yen in fiscal 1999, the report says.

The value of contracts Wakachiku won change little after Nakao’s stint as construction minister ended in November 1996, Ogi said, citing the report.

The firm received construction orders from the ministry on 66 occasions in fiscal 1995, 59 in fiscal 1996, 44 in fiscal 1997, 51 in fiscal 1998 and 53 in fiscal 1999, the report shows.

The figures are comparable to those for other bidders, it says.

The report states that since 1995, no senior ministry officials have been given executive positions at the firm after retiring from the ministry.

But Wakachiku took on five retirees from the ministry’s regional construction bureaus each year between fiscal 1995 and 1998, and hired four in fiscal 1999, which ended March 31.