• Kyodo

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A local assembly member of Hashimoto, Wakayama Prefecture, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of taking bribes from officials of a construction firm in return for allowing it to take part in the city’s public works projects.

Akinori Konishi, 42, a second-term member of the Hashimoto Municipal Assembly, is suspected of violating a new anticorruption law that bans politicians from receiving money in return for political favors, when he received several hundreds of thousands of yen from the construction company in October, local police said.

It was the first time that a politician has been arrested on suspicion of violating the law since it took effect in March 2001.

According to investigators, Konishi was asked by Noriyuki Nishitsuji, the 38-year-old president of a local construction firm, to pressure city government officials to include the firm in its list of contractors for public works projects, they said.

Konishi successfully carried out this favor by using his influence as an assembly member, police said. In return, he received several hundreds of thousands yen from Nishitsuji in mid-October, they said.

Nishitsuji was also arrested Thursday on suspicion of bribery. He was indicted for violating the Stimulants Control Law earlier this year.

The anticorruption law bans Diet members, local assembly members, heads of local governments and their state-paid secretaries from receiving money or goods in return for political favors. The law was expected to impose tighter controls over such practices than the Criminal Code, which only bans politicians from taking rewards for political favors exerted through illegal means.

But the new law has been criticized for various loopholes. Private secretaries, for instance, are not subject to the ban. The ruling coalition has recently agreed to close that loophole.

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