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OSAKA — Osaka Prefectural Police on Thursday arrested the chairman of the Osaka City Assembly and two others for allegedly disrupting the smooth execution of bidding for contracts for city-ordered public works projects in 1997.

The three men arrested were named as city assembly Chairman Hajime Amano, 52, 60-year-old Kiyoshi Watabe, president of Osaka-based electricity construction firm Watabe Co., and City Hall worker Seizaburo Kanae, 51, who is currently on loan to an organization affiliated with the city.

Prior to their arrest, investigators searched several locations in connection with the case, including Osaka City Hall.

Amano is suspected of having leaked information regarding the bidding to Watabe after approaching Kanae. Police were trying to determine whether Amano received any money or other benefits for his services.

Earlier in the day, police called on Amano to appear for voluntary questioning, but the legislator initially refused and instead went to a hospital. He appeared before police later in the day.

According to investigators, Amano and the company president conspired to have the president’s firm, based in Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Ward, win the bidding for work on the electrical systems of a city-run housing project, which was to take place Dec. 24, 1997.

In late December, Amano approached the city worker, then the head of the city’s supplies section, and made inquiries regarding the upcoming tender, including how the minimum price and expected price of the project would be calculated, police said.

Amano then proceeded to relay the information to the company president, thereby possibly affecting the fairness of the bidding, they said.

Eight companies took part in the bidding, with the firm coming out the winner with a bid of 147 million yen, 99.6 percent of the city’s planned price for the job.

Sources familiar with the case said the firm is a member of Amano’s network of support organizations.

Amano has been a member of the city assembly since 1983, serving five consecutive terms. He has been assembly chairman since May.

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