Police have nearly wrapped up their investigation into the falsification of earthquake-resistance data and are expected to announce that architect Hidetsugu Aneha is the main culprit for the large number of condominium complexes and hotels nationwide that were shoddily built.
They reached this conclusion based on Aneha’s confession after his April 26 arrest.
The architect told investigators he began falsifying data when he realized he did not know how to prepare data for his first midrise building project and was afraid he might lose out on future contracts if he did not complete the job.
Police served a fresh arrest warrant June 22 on Aneha, 49, on allegations he committed perjury when questioned under oath by a Lower House committee in December about this and another issue.
He told the Diet committee he began fabricating data in 1998, but he told police investigators after his first arrest that he began doing it in 1996.
Aneha told the Committee on Land, Infrastructure and Transport that he was pressured to fabricate data from the head of the Tokyo branch of Kimura Construction Co., who he said started telling him in 1998 to cut the number of steel reinforcement bars in the concrete. He also told the Diet committee he began fabricating data in 1998, but told police he began in 1996.
Based on his confession about why he falsified the data, investigators have decided Aneha’s poor engineering ability was the root of the shoddy construction, although his plans were approved by state-authorized screeners that should have spotted the structural faults, as the architect who blew the whistle on the scam last fall readily did.
Condo and hotel owners are irked by the conclusion.
Blaming Aneha “does not solve any of our problems,” said a 34-year-old office worker who owns a condo in one of the condemned buildings, Grand Stage Higashi-Mukojima in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward. It was sold by developer Huser Ltd., which has been accused of knowingly selling faulty dwellings.
The man bought the three-bedroom condo for 43 million yen and now will have to pay another 18 million yen to have it rebuilt.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has proposed using existing programs to subsidize people’s moving expenses and the costs to demolish the condemned buildings, which are too structurally weak to sustain a strong earthquake.
As for the expense to owners, on land ministry official cited the aftermath of the 1995 Kobe earthquake to explain why the government will not give further assistance.
“The government did not spend public funds to rebuild structures damaged by the Great Hanshin Earthquake,” the official said. “Taking everything into consideration, the government cannot give special treatment to residents of buildings whose earthquake-resistance data were fabricated.”
The office worker said the state was dodging blame.
“What needs to be addressed is the state’s responsibility for making a defective system in which purchasers have to bear the burden” when there are problems.
“This is a gray-area settlement. Another investigation team should be created to continue probing” the falsification issue, said Hideki Nakanishi, manager of Plaza Hotel Sanda in the city of Sanda, Hyogo Prefecture, one of the hotels with Aneha’s falsified specifications.
Several hotels have together filed a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court against Tokyo-based General Management Consultant to recover their consultation fees. The suit claims the consultancy knew about Aneha’s data fabrication.
On June 5, more than six months after the falsification allegations surfaced, Plaza Hotel Sanda began work to reinforce the building. The hotel, which plans to reopen in September, is putting in reinforcement walls on the ground floor and strengthening support beams. The work will cost more than 100 million yen.
“In the end, this will be a big loss,” manager Nakanishi said.
Toshio Kawai, a lawyer who specializes in defective housing cases, criticized the outcome of the police probe.
“The victims cannot be helped by the – investigation. What is most important is to make all those involved in (constructing) the buildings in question pay civil damages,” Kawai said.
But he admitted this might not be possible. Both Huser and Kimura Construction are now bankrupt.
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