Japanese architect who built hundreds of earthquake-unsafe buildings jailed

A Japanese court on Tuesday sentenced an architect to five years in prison for violating safety standards by faking earthquake-resistance data for hundreds of buildings, court officials said.

The Tokyo District Court found Hidetsugu Aneha, 49, guilty of fabricating structural engineering data to enable developers to cut costs in more than 200 projects.

The court also ordered him a fine of 1.8 million yen (US$15,100; €11,450) in line with prosecutors' demands, a court spokesman said on condition of anonymity, citing protocol. Aneha has pleaded guilty to the charges.

On Tuesday, the court also ordered an architectural designer Mikio Akiba, who involved in some of the projects, to a suspended prison term, the spokesman said.

A demolition of an Aneha-designed condominium in Tokyo, which had to be vacated due to safety concerns, started Tuesday, public broadcaster NHK said. The construction will be completed in 2008, but will cost each resident some 13 million yen (US$109,240; €82,810).

The scandal, which broke last year has shocked Japan - one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries - and forced the government to provide financial support for hundreds of residents who had to move out of the buildings deemed unsafe.

The scandal also prompted Japan's parliament in June to enact a law allowing authorities to impose tougher penalties on architects and prompted dozens of residents of an Aneha-designed condominium to file civil lawsuits seeking damages from him and city authorities for their lax inspections.

Several other construction industry officials were also indicted along with Aneha.

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