• Kyodo

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Prosecutors are set to build a bid-rigging case in connection with construction work on the Tokyo-Osaka maglev train line involving the nation’s four major contractors, sources close to the matter said Wednesday.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office’s special investigation squad is set to pursue the case in court against several officials who are suspected of violating antitrust regulations in a tender for construction work on a station in Tokyo.

As the investigation is coming to a final stage, prosecutors on Wednesday again questioned a former Taisei Corp. executive, they said.

According to Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai), the operator of the maglev train project, two joint ventures led by Shimizu Corp. and Obayashi Corp. won in 2015 orders for work at Shinagawa Station in a bid tender in which several contractors designated by JR Central competed.

But officials of Obayashi, Shimizu, Kajima Corp. and Taisei Corp. are believed to have met and shared information around 2014 or 2015 to determine which companies would win the orders ahead of the bidding, the sources said.

Obayashi and Shimizu have admitted to bid-rigging while Kajima and Taisei are believed to have denied the allegations, according to the sources.

JR Central and the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency (JRTT) have been placing construction orders related to the maglev project since 2015. The line will connect Tokyo and Osaka, with a travel time of about an hour — much quicker than current shinkansen trains.

The four contractors had won three or four orders each out of 15 orders, including for train and tunnel construction, before the investigators raided the firms late last year.

In December the investigation squad searched the headquarters of all four companies on suspicion of violating the antitrust law and questioned executives.

The central government decided in May 2011 to build the new high-speed rail line. It has provided a total of ¥3 trillion ($28 billion) for the ¥9 trillion project.

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