National / Crime & Legal

Ito's former mayor raided over alleged bribes in Shizuoka land deal

JIJI, Kyodo

Police raided the home of Hiromi Tsukuda, the former mayor of Ito, Shizuoka Prefecture, on Sunday after arresting him the previous day on suspicion of bribery in connection with land purchased by the municipality.

Also arrested Saturday were Keijiro Mori, president of Towa Kaihatsu Co., a local real estate company, and corporate employee Hiroshi Inaba, who allegedly played a role in the case.

Tsukuda, 71, is suspected of receiving about ¥10 million in bribes from Mori, 47, via Inaba, 50, on several occasions between late August and early September 2015 in exchange for having the Ito Municipal Government acquire a former hotel site from Towa Kaihatsu.

In an interview before he was arrested, Tsukuda said the alleged bribes were actually the return of money he lent out and denied any wrongdoing.

Towa Kaihatsu acquired the 4,000-sq.-meter site for about ¥50 million in October 2014. The municipal government bought the site for some ¥200 million from the company in July 2015 to build an educational facility.

But the facility was never built, and the site is currently being used as a parking lot.

Starting in 2005, Tsukuda served as Ito’s mayor for three terms before retiring in May last year. After his retirement, he was a special adviser to the city until March this year.

Having served three terms as mayor, Tsukuda, who has also been a local assembly member for years, had a strong say in public works projects. It was rumored that he was involved in wrongdoings in other projects in the past.

“If you don’t have a good relationship with him, you won’t be able to get contracts for local public works projects,” said an official who works in a civil engineering company in Ito.

Another company official said that Tsukuda had strong influence over a local industry group of civil engineering and construction companies.