• Kyodo

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Hisashi Hashimoto, mayor of the village of Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, was found hanged Saturday morning. He had been questioned over bribery allegations by police the previous day.

Hashimoto was found dead in woods in the village. He had returned home Friday from Aomori Prefectural Police headquarters, where he was questioned for a second day on suspicion of taking bribes in connection with a public works project, police said.

Police began questioning him on a voluntary basis Thursday morning and allowed him to return home late Thursday night. They resumed the questioning Friday and let him return home around 8:00 p.m. that night.

Hashimoto, 54, is believed to have denied the allegations.

Police were planning to continue questioning Hashimoto on Saturday and to arrest him on bribery charges as soon as they were able to establish a case against him, police sources said earlier.

According to police, Hashimoto is suspected of receiving 1 million yen in cash from Osamu Kosaka, 60, a former president of Ou Denki Kogyo, based in the prefecture. The alleged bribe, in December 1999, was in return for leaking the bidding price for a public works project in Rokkasho.

In November 1999, Ou Denki Kogyo won a bid for a wireless broadcasting project worth 39.2 million yen, awarded by Rokkasho.

Kosaka is on trial in a separate bribery case. He implicated Hashimoto, saying he had handed a total of 1 million yen to Hashimoto on four occasions over two years from June 1998, the sources said.

During a news conference on May 8, Hashimoto denied having received any money.

Hashimoto was first elected Rokkasho mayor in 1997 and won a second four-year term last November. Several nuclear fuel recycling facilities are located in Rokkasho, a coastal village in northern Aomori Prefecture.

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