Nearly three years after the Fukushima disaster in Japan, the $35 billion effort to scrub an area of Japan bigger than Hong Kong of radioactive fallout has become an enormous operation involving some pretty shady dealings. A lack of oversight is part of the issue: Between top government contractors and small subcontractors and the many outfits in between, at least 733 companies are at work on the 10 most contaminated towns and a nearby highway, Reuters reports; the Ministry of Environment is in charge of the effort. Reuters wasn't able to identify five of the firms involved: They had no websites, phone numbers, or construction registrations.
Meanwhile, Japan's three biggest crime syndicates have established illegal recruitment under construction powerhouse Obayashi, a top contractor. Reuters speaks to one man paid by a gangster to collect potential homeless workers: Seiji Sasa would find men at a local train station and get them work through a number of smaller contractors that eventually reported to Obayashi (which has not been fingered in the scheme). The workers would be paid less than minimum wage after middlemen skimmed some and deductions were taken for food and housing; in other cases, those deductions were taken from their scant pay, leaving the workers with no money, or even in debt. The gangster was fined, as were a number of others linked to such deals. But "if you don't get involved (with gangs), you're not going to get enough workers," says one company manager. "The construction industry is 90% run by gangs." (Read more Japan stories.)