March 23, 2018 / 3:17 AM / a year ago

Japan to press charges against four firms over maglev train bid-rigging case

Women walk past logos of Obayashi Corp (L), Taisei Corp (C) and Shimizu Corp outside a construction site in Tokyo, Japan, December 18, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese regulators said on Friday that they would press criminal charges against four construction firms for suspected collusion over contracts for an $80 billion high-speed magnetic levitation (maglev) train line.

The firms include Taisei Corp, Kajima Corp, Obayashi Corp and Shimizu Corp. The Japan Fair Trade Commission said it would also press criminal charges against an official at Taisei and another at Kajima.

A Shimizu spokesman told Reuters the firm was deeply sorry and that the incident was regrettable. Kajima said in a faxed comment it was taking the charges seriously and that it was deeply sorry for causing trouble.

A Taisei spokesman said in an email that the firm did not think the case violates anti-trust laws, although it was taking the incident seriously. Obayashi said it was still looking into the charges.

Prosecutors and anti-trust agency officials have been investigating the so-called “big four” group of Japanese construction firms for suspected antitrust breaches relating to the high-profile maglev project since last year.

Japan’s large and politically influential construction industry has been a frequent source of scandals such as bid-rigging.

Legislation has been tightened in recent years to prevent collusion over contract bids, and Obayashi in 2006 required managers to sign a pledge to abide by antitrust laws. The next year, however, the firm’s top management resigned following a public works scandal.

Reporting by Yoshiyasu Shida; Writing by Minami Funakoshi; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim and Stephen Coates

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