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The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry has determined that one of its own officials is involved in rigging bids for its river floodgate and reservoir projects, it was learned Friday.

The official, whose identity and title are being withheld, is the first currently employed civil servant to be linked to the crime. Most civil servants have usually left their government posts by the time they are accused of rigging bids.

According to the ministry’s internal investigation panel, the bureaucrat has been relaying information about public bids for floodgate projects to engineering firms, sources said.

The official denied any involvement in bid-rigging and did not receive any monetary rewards for the information, the panel claimed.

Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Tetsuzo Fuyushiba apologized for the scandal at a news conference Friday and said he plans to severely punish the official.

The in-house panel will soon send Fuyushiba a report on bid-rigging related to recent ministry-financed floodgate projects.

In March, the Fair Trade Commission told the land ministry to terminate bid-rigging after finding that seven of its retired officials were involved. Among the seven was a top engineer at the former Construction Ministry, one of the predecessors of the land ministry.

At the time, the antitrust watchdog said two of the seven officials played leading roles in rigging bids when they were still employed by the land ministry.

The commission also told 15 engineering companies to end their bid-rigging practices, ordering 14 of them to pay a combined 1.67 billion yen in penalties. Among the 15 were Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., Hitachi Zosen Corp. and JFE Engineering Corp.

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