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Prosecutors on Thursday arrested two officials of the government-affiliated Japan Green Resources Agency and four employees of four contractors for allegedly rigging bids related to consulting work on forest road projects.

The move came after the Fair Trade Commission filed a criminal complaint with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office against the four contractors, who were awarded projects by Green Resources.

The officials arrested include Muneo Takagi, a 59-year-old executive director in charge of the forest project management department of Green Resources, based in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture.

The prosecutors office summoned Takagi and his colleague Tsuneo Shimooki, 56, along with the four contractors’ employees for questioning in the morning on suspicion of limiting transactions in violation of the antimonopoly law. They were arrested in the afternoon.

This is the third time the FTC has filed a complaint since it was empowered to conduct raids under the revised antimonopoly law. The antitrust watchdog may also file a complaint under the law for preventing collusive bidding initiated by government agencies and officials.

The four contractors are two Forestry Agency-supervised public-interest cooperations — Shinko Kosaikai and Japan Forest Engineering Consultants — and two joint-stock companies — K.K. Forestech and Katahira & Engineers Inc. One of the arrested employees is Nobumori Hashioka, 63, a former chief of the environment department of Japan Forest Engineering.

They are known to have employed a number of former officials from Japan Green Resources, which is affiliated with the forestry ministry, and the Forestry Agency. It is also suspected that they were given priority in receiving orders from the government affiliate.

Senior Japan Green Resources officials in charge of forest services, including Takagi, allegedly designated and delivered the winning bidders via division chiefs at the agency’s eight regional construction offices, investigative sources said.

In line with these “voices from heaven” from the agency, the four contractors are suspected of colluding in rigging their bid prices, they said.

The antitrust practices, initiated by government entities, are believed to have been in practice for at least 10 years.

The agency designated the winners based on reports from regional offices about their order plans and contract prices, and by taking into account contracts awarded to each bidder in previous years.

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