The Fair Trade Commission on Tuesday searched more than a dozen companies, including major machinery makers, in Tokyo and Osaka for evidence of bid-rigging in connection with local government construction contracts for sewage pumps.

FTC officials conducted simultaneous inspections at Hitachi Ltd., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., Kubota Corp. and other firms that allegedly violated the Antimonopoly Law by repeatedly conspiring in bidding for public projects to lay sewage pumps in Tokyo, Osaka and other prefectures.

The firms are suspected of holding talks to decide winning bidders in advance to prevent contract prices from falling and to secure business opportunities. The watchdog believes the firms also rigged bids in other prefectures, sources said.

The latest development follows the indictments of executives at four companies just six days earlier for alleged bid-rigging for public water meter projects in Tokyo. The commission searched 19 firms in February in that case.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Bureau of Sewage was also gathering information Tuesday. Bureau officials said they have received information about the bid-rigging but could confirm no cases after questioning employees of the firms.

In fiscal 2002, which ended in March, the metro government made 61 orders for public works projects related to sewage pumps, including repairs, worth a total of 6.7 billion yen.

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