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Fukushima mulls criminal complaint over fake forest decontamination work

One of the photos that a subcontractor submitted to the city shows a worker carrying a cut bamboo tree. This photo was used multiple times in work reports to make it appear as if the scene was from several different decontamination work sites. (Photo courtesy of the Fukushima Municipal Government)

FUKUSHIMA -- The municipal government here is considering filing a criminal complaint against parties concerned for allegedly fabricating bamboo forest decontamination work to receive 10 times the normal compensation, it has been learned.

City-commissioned decontamination work was conducted in this city's Matsukawamachi district after the area was contaminated with radioactive materials emanating from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster. While about 500 yen per square meter is paid to decontaminate forests in affected areas, the reward shoots up to around 5,100 yen per square meter if bamboo forests are involved as it is necessary to cut thick bamboo groves before starting decontamination work.

Short pieces of bamboo are seen sticking out from the ground in one of the photos that a subcontractor submitted to the city to make it look like bamboo trees had been felled. (Photo courtesy of the Fukushima Municipal Government)

According to the Fukushima Municipal Government, now-defunct Zerutech Tohoku, a third-tier subcontractor of a joint venture that undertook the decontamination work, fabricated photos to be attached to decontamination work reports as if bamboo trees were felled for the work. The reports were submitted to the city by way of the joint venture, based on which unduly higher amounts of compensation were paid to the organization.

The joint venture comprised three construction firms based in the city of Fukushima -- Hikari Construction Co., Komata Construction Co. and Noko Kensetsu Co. The consortium undertook work to decontaminate areas totaling 185,000 square meters located within 20 meters from residential districts and farmland between September 2014 and March 2016, and received a total of some 620 million yen from the city, according to officials of the city's decontamination work planning division.

The third-tier subcontractor in question, which was based in the prefectural city of Nihonmatsu, is accused of placing short pieces of bamboo in the ground and photographing them to make it appear as if bamboo trees were felled for decontamination work. The company also fabricated a photograph in which a worker is seen carrying a cut bamboo tree, and used the photo multiple times in work reports by making it appear as though the scene was from several different work sites.

The municipal government uncovered the misconduct in November last year following whistleblowing from a source close to the case, and has since been questioning joint venture officials.

"It was difficult to detect the deliberate falsifications because we checked the work based on papers," said Takashi Tsuchida, head of the city's decontamination work planning division.

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