• Kyodo

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A company in the joint venture that won a contract for a Wakayama sewage system project under suspicious circumstances donated 1.46 million yen to two support groups for Gov. Yoshiki Kimura between 2001 and 2005, investigative sources said Saturday.

The prefecture’s former chief treasurer, Satoaki Mizutani, 60, was served a fresh arrest warrant Thursday for allegedly playing a part in determining successful bidders for the project in the city of Iwade in November 2004.

The police also learned that the building that Kimura used as his office in Kainan during a gubernatorial race was leased by the same contractor.

The Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office, focusing on the fact that the contractor was a strong backer of Kimura, plans to investigate the background of the donation and whether the governor was involved in the bid-rigging.

The contractor is a Kainan-based construction company.

According to a report on political funding and other documents, a company executive donated 500,000 yen in 2001 to one of the two support groups, while two executives each donated 120,000 yen annually to the group in 2002 and 2003.

The police also learned that the same pair each donated 120,000 yen annually to the other support group in 2004 and 2005.

In an unusual move, the prefecture publicly announced the bidding for the sewage project both before and after the August 2004 gubernatorial election. The first bidding was canceled after the Fair Trade Commission, probing construction work ordered by the city of Niigata, ordered contractors, including major ones, to discontinue rigging bids.

The Wakayama company was not a member of the joint venture in the first bidding. It took the place of another company in the joint venture and won the contract.

Kimura said Thursday he will step down to take responsibility for the bid-rigging scandals involving Mizutani, who was the No. 3 official in the prefectural government.

“I have decided to resign to take responsibility for causing turmoil in the prefectural administration,” Kimura said at a news conference, drawing a curtain on his second term in office.

He was first elected in 2000 at age 48.

“I have not been involved at all in the incidents,” he also said. “I have nothing to be ashamed of.”

The prefectural government is expected to call an election to replace him by the end of the year.

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