From: Associated Press, TOKYO
Published November 22, 2004 12:00 AM

Mitsubishi Companies Raided for Allegedly Concealing Toxic Contamination at Housing Site

Police raided the head offices of three Mitsubishi group companies on Monday on suspicion that they concealed toxic contamination at the site of a housing complex in western Japan to sell new condos.

Police officers from Osaka prefectural (state) police raided the Tokyo headquarters of Mitsubishi Estate Co., Mitsubishi Materials Corp. and Mitsubishi Real Estate Services Co., an Osaka police spokesman said speaking on condition of anonymity.

Two 30-story apartment buildings housing 518 condos were developed and sold by the companies starting in 1999 at a former smelting works plant site owned by Mitsubishi Materials.

In 1997, Mitsubishi officials had tested underground water at the site and found that levels of selenium exceeded safety standards by 83 times and arsenic levels by 65 times, said Mitsubishi Real Estate spokesman Yusuke Abe.

The contamination was not disclosed until September 2002 because the companies deemed it "no safety hazard" to residents, Abe said. There had been no reports of injuries, the police spokesman said.

Selenium is not typically harmful to humans, but can be poisonous if combined with other compounds or consumed at high levels. Arsenic, which occurs naturally in soil and water, is also poisonous in large amounts.

Mitsubishi Estate, Japan's second-largest real estate developer, said the company took police raid "seriously" and would cooperate with the investigation, the company said in a statement.

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