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Construction firm official says Amari's ex-secretary suggested he demand 2 billion yen from UR

A Chiba Prefecture-based construction company official, who has acknowledged he provided funds to former Cabinet minister Akira Amari, claimed that the then state-paid secretary to Amari suggested last year that the official demand some 2 billion yen from a government-funded Urban Renaissance Agency (UR) for compensation over a road construction project.

Takeshi Isshiki, 62, who was in charge of general affairs at the Chiba construction company, told a recent Mainichi Shimbun interview that his testimony proves that Amari's side was keen about being involved in negotiations with UR. He has claimed that Amari and his secretaries received money from his firm in return to act as a go-between. After the allegations surfaced, Amari announced his resignation from his ministerial post on Jan. 28.

According to the Chiba Prefectural Government, the road project was commissioned to UR by the prefecture. Isshiki told the Mainichi that in addition to the compensation payment of around 236 million yen that his firm had received from UR before the road work began, the firm received another 51 million yen sometime after March 2015 from UR after the firm complained that parts of the company building became bent due to vibrations generated by the construction.

Furthermore, the Chiba company demanded additional payment from UR, claiming that industrial waste buried underground needed to be removed. Isshiki subsequently asked Amari's secretary and other interested parties to act as a go-between for the firm in the negotiations.

Over 40 years ago, the then landowner of what is now the company property illegally dumped industrial waste on the site. The planned road was to be built on the company property, stretching from north to south. Before the road work started, the Chiba Prefectural Government spent some 3.1 billion yen to remove the waste from the planned construction site. However, the Chiba firm demanded UR remove industrial waste from the property outside of the planned road work site, and the two parties faced a deadlock over the negotiations.

According to Isshiki, Amari's secretary who resigned last month began pushing UR harder on the issue from October 2015 and onward, telling him to mention about the "2 billion yen" compensation to UR. He also said the secretary proposed to suggest the amount to UR since the agency had not presented a specific amount for the compensation. Isshiki claims that he recorded this conversation with the secretary and others.

Meanwhile, according to the documents that UR released on its meetings with Amari's secretaries and other interested parties, on Oct. 28 last year, UR told one of Amari's secretaries, who also resigned last month, that the construction firm had not presented a specific amount for the additional compensation. The secretary reportedly told UR officials, "I could ask them (the construction firm) about the amount."

At that meeting, the UR officials warned the secretary saying that asking construction firm officials how much they wanted would place both UR and the secretary in a tough position. This secretary joined a meeting between UR and the Chiba firm the following month, using a fake name and pretending to be one of the firm's employees.

A UR official told the Mainichi that a specific amount for the compensation payment was never offered.

Amari denied his secretaries' involvement in the negotiations that took place in 2013 at the Jan. 28 news conference, based on hearings from the secretaries conducted by attorneys. Amari said that the secretaries, after holding talks with UR, asked both sides to hold further talks themselves.

Meanwhile, a representative of Amari's office told the Mainichi regarding Isshiki's new testimony that what Amari said during the news conference was everything there is to know about the matter.

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