Asahi Kasei vows independent probe over tilting condo building

by Tomoko Otake

Staff Writer

Top executives of Asahi Kasei Corp., parent of the company that handled the piling work for a tilting Yokohama condominium building, apologized Tuesday and said the firm will deal “sincerely” with the residents and do its best to discover the facts surrounding the case.

“We sincerely apologize for the great damage caused to residents of the building,” Asahi Kasei President Toshio Asano told a hastily arranged news conference in Tokyo attended by nearly 200 reporters. “We are deeply, deeply sorry. Our priority is on ensuring the safety and security of the residents.”

The firm also announced that it will soon set up an outside investigative panel comprised of around three lawyers who have no connection with the company, “in line with requests from affected residents.”

The panel will analyze data and interview workers involved in constructing the four-building Park City Lala Yokohama complex in Tsuzuki Ward, as well as propose policies to prevent similar problems from recurring in the future, the firm said.

Asahi Kasei has already set up an internal investigative panel headed by Vice President Masahito Hirai, with plans to release its findings by the end of the year.

Officials from the company previously said a male employee of subsidiary Asahi Kasei Construction Materials Corp., which handled the piling work, has admitted to fabricating data on 38 piles providing underground support for three of the four buildings in the complex.

Of the piles in question, 10 were found under the tilting building, where eight had failed to extend all the way to solid ground or were insufficiently buried in the bedrock.

The same employee also falsified data on the amount of cement used in connection with 45 of the piles.

Asahi Kasei officials told the news conference that the male employee has denied having stopped piling work halfway through the process “on purpose.” The employee, who was on loan to Asahi Kasei Construction Materials from a subcontractor, said he was confident at the time that the piles had reached the support layer.

The employee said he fabricated some of the data on the underground conditions because he had lost the information.

The data came from measuring equipment that sends electric currents into the ground and provides readouts showing whether the piles have reached solid ground, according to Asahi Kasei.

“Since eight piles are known to be faulty, his testimony contradicts what’s happening,” Hirai said. “But we are dealing with his memory from 10 years ago, and data from 10 years ago.

“We will fully investigate whether (his sloppy work) was intentional or based on (genuine) misjudgment on his part.”

Hirai also said that at this point it is unclear whether the employee was the only person involved in the data tampering.

Also unclear is how the various businesses involved in the construction and sales of the condos will shoulder the massive costs, including compensation for the residents. While Asahi Kasei said it will shoulder all of the costs involved in investigating the work on the piles and do all the repairs deemed necessary, Mitsui Fudosan Residential, which handled selling the condos, has said it is willing to rebuild all four buildings.

The government has launched an investigation into the company for possible violation of a law involving real estate sales.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has already instructed the company to deal sincerely with the affected residents and is monitoring whether they will be able to come to an agreement over compensation.

The Building Lots and Buildings Transaction Law states that the government can take administrative action, such as ordering business improvement or suspension, if a firm causes trouble for residents.

Information from Kyodo added

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