Police investigators plan to arrest former architect Hidetsugu Aneha by the end of this month on suspicion of fabricating quake-resistance data for condominiums and budget hotels, sources said Friday.
The arrest will come five months after revelations of the scandal surfaced in November sent shock waves to condo buyers in earthquake-prone Japan. The buildings involved were found to be vulnerable to strong earthquakes and some of them have been demolished.
The police also plan to question Susumu Ojima, 52, president of Huser Ltd., the developer of many quake-vulnerable condos, possibly next week, on a voluntary basis, the sources said. Huser has been undergoing court-led liquidation.
A joint team of police investigators from Tokyo, Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures plans to arrest Aneha, 48, who is known to have fabricated such data for at least 98 buildings in 18 prefectures nationwide.
The police are considering establishing criminal cases against about 10 other people, including a senior official of Kimura Construction Co., which built many of the defective structures, the sources said.
Aneha was stripped of his license as an architect on Dec. 8, and Kimura Construction, a midsize contractor based in Yatsushiro, Kumamoto Prefecture, went bankrupt in early December, half a month after the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry announced Nov. 17 that one hotel and 20 condominiums in Tokyo, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures may lack the strength to resist major earthquakes.
Aneha is suspected of violating the Building Standards Law and the Registered Architect Law, both of which carry only slight penalties for offenders — of less than 500,000 yen and 300,000 yen in fines, respectively.
Police and prosecution authorities are still studying whether they can invoke the Penal Code’s fraud provision, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
Police investigators raided more than 100 locations Dec. 20 in an effort to establish criminal cases against Aneha and Kimura Construction as well as developers of the defective condos and hotels.
Meanwhile, the investigators are planning to establish a case against Huser’s Ojima on suspicion of fraud and real estate business law violations by selling units in a defective condo in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, despite the fact he knew the building’s weakness to quakes, they said.
The police team has already completed an on-site inspection of the condominium in the question, Grand Stage Fujisawa, near JR Fujisawa Station.
The 10-story condo was developed by Huser and built by Kimura Construction with quake-resistance data allegedly fabricated by Aneha. Its resistance to earthquakes was found to be only 15 percent of the legal requirement. That was the weakest among the apartments designed by Aneha.
The police will also pursue criminal responsibility of senior officials at General Management Consultant, a Tokyo-based consultancy. General Management Consultant is known to have been involved in the construction and management of many defective hotels, the sources said.
Following the revelations of the data fabrication scandal, the government has compiled a bill to revise the Building Standards Law to raise the maximum penalty to an imprisonment of three years or a fine of 3 million yen.
At the land ministry’s request, local governments across the country have since November looked into 205 buildings whose quake-resistance data were worked out by Aneha.
Of the 205 buildings checked, quake-resistance data have been found fabricated at 98 — 57 condos, 38 hotels and three stand-alone homes. The 98 defective buildings include 34 in Tokyo and 17 in Kanagawa Prefecture.
Among the 57 condos were 11 very weak buildings which will be demolished because their quake-resistance strength was found to be less than 50 percent of legal requirements.