• Kyodo


The mayor of Kamagaya, Chiba Prefecture, was arrested Thursday for allegedly taking bribes from a construction company via an aide to former House of Councilors President Yutaka Inoue.

Mayor Keiichiro Minagawa, 49, is suspected of accepting 10 million yen for helping the construction company get a subcontract for a public works project. He has denied the allegations, prosecutors said.

The Chiba District Public Prosecutor’s Office began questioning Minagawa in the morning. They searched his home and the Kamagaya Municipal Government office.

The aide, Yoshio Handa, has confessed to receiving the money from the contractor and passing it on to the mayor, prosecution sources have said.

The prosecutors indicted Handa, a former government-paid secretary to Inoue, on May 22 on charges of interfering in the bidding for the project to build a publicly owned lodge in the summer resort town of Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture.

Handa, 48, allegedly received 64 million yen in 1999 in kickbacks from Isao Nakamura, who was president of Shinto Kensetsu, a now-bankrupt construction company in Chiba Prefecture.

Handa was quoted as saying he gave 30 million yen of the 64 million yen to Kazuo Nozaki, an executive of another construction company, Misuzu Kensetsu.

Handa told investigators that Nozaki, who has close ties to both Inoue and the mayor, “should have handed” most of the 30 million yen to Minagawa, according to the sources.

Nozaki, however, has said he passed 10 million yen each to the mayor and Deputy Mayor Akira Kawai, and used the rest on his own, the sources said.

The prosecutors also indicted on May 22 Nakamura, 58, Nozaki, 70, and Kawai, 60, as well as Asao Kuroda, 62, former managing director of Shinto Kensetsu, and Kuniyasu Hara, 60, former deputy branch manager of the major construction contractor Kumagai Gumi Co. Kawai quit as deputy mayor Monday.

The prosecutors suspect the bidding was rigged because the budgeted price for the lodge was leaked ahead of the December 1999 bidding for its construction.

Handa allegedly got the budgeted price — 800 million yen — from Kawai, who was a city official at the time, and relayed the information to Kumagai Gumi’s Hara.

Kumagai Gumi won the contract to build the inn for 777 million yen and subcontracted Shinto Kensetsu to do the work.

Inoue, 74, resigned as an Upper House lawmaker over the scandal May 2, the day Handa and the five others were arrested.

He resigned as Upper House president on April 19 amid the scandal.

Minagawa, now serving in his fifth four-year-term, was first elected mayor in 1983 when he was 30. He was the nation’s youngest mayor at the time.

Supporters said Minagawa decided to run in the election right after the sudden death of his father, a city assembly member who was preparing to run for mayor.

Over his 19 years in office, the young mayor became rather dictatorial in nature, observers say.

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