• Kyodo

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The Fair Trade Commission has searched the offices of 13 major road-paving firms on suspicion they violated the anti-monopoly law by rigging their bids for projects to repair expressways damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku region.

Among the companies raided Wednesday were Japan’s biggest road-paving firms: Nippo Corp., Maeda Road Construction Co., Nippon Road Co., Taisei Rotec Co., Kajima Road Co. and Obayashi Road Corp., all based in Tokyo.

The seven others are Fukuda Road Construction Co., Kitagawa Hutec Co., Toa Road Corp., Watanabe Sato Co., Gaeart T.K., Sumiken Mitsui Road Co. and Tokiwakogyo.

In 2011, 12 of the 13 companies won orders for nine projects dealing with expressways, including the Tohoku and Ban-Etsu expressways, whose cost totaled some ¥17.6 billion.

The projects were offered by a local unit of East Nippon Expressway Co. Officials of the watchdog agency suspect the rigging as gone on for at least the past few years.

The FTC plans to file a criminal complaint with prosecutors.

Investigative sources said the FTC also suspects the 13 firms were involved in bid-rigging for projects concerning conventional national roads.