Two construction company employees were handed suspended prison terms after being found guilty Wednesday of interfering in the bidding process for a government-funded building on Kunashiri Island connected to scandal-tainted former lawmaker Muneo Suzuki.

Teruo Karube and Toru Kikuchi, both 54-year-old employees of Yokohama-based engineering firm JGC Corp., were sentenced to suspended one-year prison terms over their interference in the so-called "Muneo House" bids.

They were found guilty of conspiring with Suzuki's public secretary, 54-year-old Akira Miyano, to leak the budgeted price to two Hokkaido contractors.

The building, which doubles as an accommodation and evacuation facility, was erected in 1999 as part of an aid project funded by the Japanese government on Kunashiri, one of four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido claimed by Japan.

The building is formally known as the House of Friendship.

"The two worked to draw up a plan to subcontract the construction plan for the building after obtaining the budgeted price," Judge Koichi Ideta of the Tokyo District Court said.

"The two bear a heavy responsibility for the crime because they played key roles in the scheme."

According to the court, the pair obtaining the budgeted price and leaked the information to two Hokkaido firms supporting Suzuki ahead of the bidding on July 7, 1999.

Kikuchi and Karube met with Miyano for the first time on May 22, 1999, to discuss construction projects. Miyano then gathered others in Suzuki's office in Kushiro, Hokkaido, on June 3 to arrange the bid-rigging scheme, the court found.

The two firms tied to Suzuki won the bid and they eventually subcontracted JGC.