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Interesting development in the Huser/Aneha scandal October 19, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in crime, Japan, Media.
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The first “victim” of the Huser/Aneha scandal was handed a suspended sentence yesterday, for providing false information in a notarised document. The crime was related to a stock issue at eHomes, a company which performed structural engineering safety checks and which was involved in the Huser/Aneha affair having signed off on several cases where the structural engineering calculations were falsified by Aneha.

From a Japan Times article back in July:

Togo Fujita, president of eHomes Inc., and a key figure in the building safety fraud centered on former architect Hidetsugu Aneha, pleaded guilty July 7 to falsifying financial documents in 2001 to gain state certification to conduct structural engineering safety checks.

At the first session of his Tokyo District Court trial, Fujita admitted his company falsely stated it had 50 million yen in capital when it had only 23 million yen. The 50 million yen figure is the minimum required for certification.

“I am deeply sorry and apologize to those involved,” Fujita said.

EHomes failed to spot faked quake-resistance data in 37 of the 99 buildings that Aneha designed since 1996. Fujita was arrested April 26 after he fell under scrutiny in connection with the Aneha scandal.

EHomes’ inspection license was revoked by the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry in May, and the company went out of business.

So, it takes 3 months from the time a guilty plea is submitted until a sentence is handed down. What speedy justice. Not unheard of in Japan, but a paranoid person might read more into this. (It should also be noted that the court did not find Fujita guilty of any active collusion in the actual safety fraud incidents)

Timed to coincide with the verdict announcement, the mysterious Japanese blogger Kikko has posted what is claimed to be a statement penned by Togo Fujita.

The main points were that, after the Huser/Aneha frauds were revealed, eHomes found similar problems with another major housing and hotel developer, Apa Group. Fujita claimes that an architect who worked on Apa projects had boasted that he had been employing the same falsification techniques as Aneha way before Aneha had been doing so, and the architect opined that plenty of other architects have been doing much the same.

The Apa Group founder is said to be another key figure in the AnShinKai(案晋会), which is a group which supports Shinzo Abe, the current Japanese Prime Minister.

Another interesting detail comes to light, specifically that the Asahi Shimbun was contacted by Fujita who also provided details of Apa Group’s alleged frauds, but one of the reporters assigned to this case died in February just as the newspaper was picking up on the Apa Group allegations, and the relationship fizzled out at this point.

More importantly, the mainstream media still appears to be content to censor Fujita, who distributed a copy of the statement to the press at the post trial press conference. The mainstream media has thus far only covered the trial verdict and made a passing comment about the press conference where Fujita apparently made some interesting comments, naming some names. No mention of the distributed statement.

A follow up from Fujita was posted on Kikko’s blog again today.

He makes the observation that the Huser/Aneha affair should not be characterised as a building safety fraud scandal, but rather the real scandal is the fact that this incident has been portrayed as an isolated affair involving a rogue developer and architect when real issue should be the complicity of bureaucrats in the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry and in the local authorities who have firstly been allowed to operate a flawed system to vet building safety, and secondly to make the incident appear as if it was an isolated incident.

The media appears to be content to play along, as it has no doubt done for decades. This just reinforces my view of the Japanese media as a mouthpiece for political and economic interests who do not have a single bone of journalistic integrity between the whole lot of them. Perhaps they will argue that real journalism is too dangerous in Japan, and maybe they are right.

I suspect that Fujita only got to where he did within the notoriously backward and corrupt construction industry by playing by the rules, and don’t think he is some sort of saint.  I suspect it is partly that he’s angry that he has been singled out and is out to drag as many people down with him, but if his timeline is correct, he may indeed have seen the light some time at the end of last year and attempted to make a genuine effort to expose the real scale of the problem, and show that the bureaucrats are heavily involved. (Lots of ex-Ministry bureaucrats get nice jobs at the construction companies when they leave the Ministry, as well)

It would appear that Fujita’s efforts endangered both bureaucrats and Shinzo Abe’s friends in industry, a dangerous set of enemies at a time when Abe was being carefully positioned to replace Koizumi as Prime Minister.

The Anshinkai(案晋会) certainly seems to have interesting members (APA Group, HIS, Huser), the deceased Noguchi-san from HIS Securities who died in the midst of the Livedoor scandal was apprently a member as well.

I doubt information of this nature would have been made available in pre-internet Japan, certainly the power of the participative internet (as exemplified by blogs, SNS and more fundamentally by a much higher number of wired people) is changing the rules by which incidents are reported, and mainly for the better.

Comments»

1. Apa Group and the structural engineering fraud scandal « from the inside, looking in - January 26, 2007

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[…] fairly careful deconstruction by Tobias Samuel Harris here. I don’t know if you remember the scandal about apartments and hotels that didn’t meet earthquake standards a few years ago, but the […]


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