• Kyodo

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Former farm ministry officials were found to have landed jobs in firms suspected of involvement in bid-rigging cases connected to government soil cleaning projects in the disaster-hit Tohoku region, sources familiar with the matter say.

The revelation came said Wednesday after the Fair Trade Commission on Tuesday conducted inspections at over 10 construction firms and found that several had hired retirees from the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, according to the sources.

The antitrust watchdog is looking into whether the officials played any role in securing projects ordered by the ministry’s Tohoku regional administration office, the sources said.

About 10 more construction firms and the regional office were searched by the FTC on Wednesday. According to the regional office, the government has spent ¥100 billion ($902 million) on projects aimed at restoring farmland ruined by the March 2011 tsunami.

The government has been trying to fight the long-standing practice of amakudari (literally meaning descent from heaven) by which civil servants secure plum jobs in sectors they used to oversee, a potential vehicle for corruption.

Companies inspected by the antitrust watchdog on Tuesday included Fujita Corp., Asunaro Aoki Construction Co., Tobishima Corp., Rinkai Nissan Construction Co., Kajima Corp. and Obayashi Corp. The searches were ordered in connection with allegations that they decided the winners of the government contracts in advance.

The public works projects are believed to encompass the removal of salinized agricultural soil from areas contaminated by the massive tsunami, and the building of aqueducts in the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima.

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