• Kyodo

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A former executive director of the predecessor to the Japan Green Resources Agency was found dead early Tuesday after an apparent suicidal plunge, hours before he was to be questioned again in connection with a bid-rigging probe, police said.

The death in Yokohama of Shinichi Yamazaki, 76, came just one day after farm minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka, 62, himself embroiled in a political funds scandal partly linked to the Japan Green Resources Agency, committed suicide in his Diet member’s residence in Tokyo.

Yamazaki had allegedly established the bid-rigging mechanism led by officials of the Japan Green Resources Agency, which is known as J-Green. Prosecutors raided his home Saturday and interrogated him several times, including Monday. They had planned to question him Tuesday as well.

Matsuoka had been facing a Monday confrontation in the Diet over his receipt of political donations from J-Green contractors.

Yamazaki, in interviews since late April, denied knowing of the alleged bid-rigging.

Found bleeding from the head, his pajama-clad body was discovered around 5:15 a.m. in the parking lot of his condominium. His shoes were found on the stairs of the building’s sixth floor, according to the Kanagawa Prefectural Police.

No suicide note was found, they said.

Yamazaki was an executive director at the public corporation that in 2003 became J-Green. The change transformed the public corporation into an independent administrative agency. It is an agriculture and forestry developer affiliated with the farm ministry.

In 1988, he became the corporation’s first employee to be promoted to the executive post and held it until he retired in 1990.

After retiring, he served as vice chairman of a forestry association formed by some 300 J-Green contractors. It was disbanded last November after the Fair Trade Commission raided J-Green and its contractors in October over the bid-rigging allegation.

Tokyo prosecutors arrested two J-Green officials May 24, including an executive director, and officials of four contractors on suspicion of rigging bids in 2005 and 2006 for public works projects ordered by the agency. Two contractors in Shimane and Miyazaki prefectures whose heads were executives in the now-defunct forestry association were also searched.

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