• Kyodo


A former chief treasurer of Wakayama Prefecture was sentenced Wednesday to a suspended two-year prison term for rigging bids for public work projects in 2004, a case that led to the arrest of then Wakayama Gov. Yoshiki Kimura.

Satoaki Mizutani, 61, was the first of seven people indicted in the case to be sentenced. The others include 55-year-old Kimura, who stepped down last December following his arrest, and former golf course operator Yoshikazu Iyama, 56.

In handing down the ruling at the Osaka District Court, the presiding judge, Masaki Nishida, criticized the case as “a malicious collusive bidding at the initiative of government officials . . . based on cozy ties between the prefecture and the industry.”

But the judge also explained his leniency in handing out the suspended term, saying Mizutani “did not actively create the bid-rigging organization and there was an aspect that he was following defendant Kimura’s comprehensive orders.”

In a separate trial the same day, Chikanori Hioki, a former adviser to major construction firm Obayashi Corp., was handed a suspended 18-month sentence for allegedly brokering rigged bids.

The court said Mizutani conspired with Kimura, Iyama and others to fix bids in November 2004 on two tunnel projects and a sewerage project so that joint ventures led respectively by Hazama Corp., Tokyu Construction Co., and Kumagai Gumi Co. would win the contracts.

Prosecutors were seeking a two-year term for Mizutani and 18 months for Hioki.

After the sentencing, Mizutani said, “I can’t arrange my thoughts,” and left the court.

Wakayama Gov. Yoshinobu Nisaka was contrite after the trials.

“We receive the sentence seriously . . . and will continue to make efforts to restore the prefectural citizens’ confidence,” he said in a statement.

All seven indicted have pleaded guilty to the charges. Kimura is charged with taking 10 million yen in bribes and rigging bids for the public work projects.

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