• Kyodo

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Prosecutors investigating four major contractors over alleged collusion on bids for work on the Tokyo-Osaka maglev project suspect that a former executive of Taisei Corp. gathered information from the train operator before bidding and acted as a mediator, investigative sources said Tuesday.

The former managing executive officer of Taisei is suspected of having received information, such as expected costs, about planned work for the ¥9 trillion ($79 billion) project from a now deceased senior executive of train operator Central Japan Railway Co., known as JR Tokai.

Prosecutors believe the Taisei official then shared the information with the other three construction firms — Kajima Corp., Obayashi Corp. and Shimizu Corp. — to coordinate their bids.

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Fair Trade Commission raided the headquarters of the four firms last week on suspicion of antitrust violations.

In May 2011, the government decided on the maglev route that goes through the Southern Alps in central Japan. Since around that time, officials from the four construction companies met regularly to decide which firms would win which construction projects, the sources said.

By around October 2014, when the project was approved by the government, the four companies had almost finished their coordination, they said.

JR Tokai has signed contracts for 24 related projects since 2015, of which 15 were almost equally split among the four construction companies, the railway operator has said.

An Obayashi official has told Tokyo prosecutors that the company was asked by the former Taisei executive to coordinate their tenders.

JR Tokai and Taisei declined to comment.

When finished, the maglev train will travel at a top speed of 500 kph and connect Tokyo with Osaka in about an hour — much faster than current shinkansen.

The service between Tokyo and Nagoya is scheduled to start in 2027, with an extension to Osaka planned by 2037. The government has provided a total of ¥3 trillion for the project.

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