Former Minister Charged With Bribery, Ending Yearlong Probe
TOKYO (AP) _ Prosecutors brought a bribery indictment against a former Cabinet minister Friday, wrapping up a yearlong investigation into political payoffs from Japan’s construction companies.
Former Construction Minister Kishiro Nakamura was the first national lawmaker and former Cabinet minister arrested in the investigation. He has denied taking any bribes and reportedly refused to talk to investigators.
Since last year, nearly 30 construction executives and several local officials have been arrested in the investigation. Big-money scandals such as this one contributed to last summer’s election loss for the Liberal Democratic Party, which had governed Japan for 38 years.
Nakamura is suspected of accepting a $95,000 bribe from Kajima Corp. in exchange for pressuring officials not to pursue charges against Kajima and others for rigging bids in public works contracts.
Rigging bids is illegal, but it has been customary among Japan’s construction firms for nearly a century. Foreign contractors say the practice has hindered their efforts to break into the market.
The investigation stemmed from a scandal involving Shin Kanemaru, a former power in the Liberal Democrats. He is on trial on charges of evading $9.6 million in taxes on money he received from construction companies.
″Thanks to efforts by our colleagues, we were able to generally conclude the investigation,″ chief investigator Norio Munakata said at a news conference.
Although prosecutors did not call it an official ending, several prominent national politicians, whose names had been reported in Japanese news media as recipients of similar payoffs, are believed to have escaped indictment.
Nakamura was arrested March 11. He was the first national lawmaker in 27 years to be arrested during a parliamentary session.