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KEPCO boss apologizes over 320 mil. yen in payoffs from ex-vice mayor of nuclear host town

KEPCO President Shigeki Iwane, right, and other executives bow deeply at a news conference at the company's headquarters in Osaka's Kita Ward on Sept. 27, 2019. (Mainichi/Naohiro Yamada)

The president of Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) admitted on Sept. 27 that he and 19 others had received a total of about 320 million yen in payoffs from a former deputy mayor of a Fukui Prefecture town hosting one of the utility's nuclear plants.

"I deeply apologize for causing great anxiety and trouble to the many people concerned and causing a stir in society," KEPCO President Shigeki Iwane, 66, told a hastily arranged news conference at the company's headquarters in Kita Ward in the western Japan city of Osaka on Sept. 27.

Besides Iwane, the others who received money include Chairman Makoto Yagi, 69, and high-ranking employees and retirees.

During an inspection, national tax authorities pointed out that KEPCO executives and others had accepted massive amounts of cash and valuables, prompting the company to set up a fact-finding panel comprising outside lawyers and others in July 2018, according to the news conference.

Iwane explained at the news conference that all the 20 had already returned the money and valuables to the donor, a former deputy mayor of Takahama along the Sea of Japan coast, which hosts KEPCO's Takahama nuclear plant.

"Some of the executives and employees declined to accept cash and other goods that exceeded an acceptable level in light of common sense or offered to return such gifts, but (the former deputy mayor) strongly refused to take them back, so they temporarily kept the valuables in their possession," said Iwane.

In Tokyo, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Isshu Sugawara, who supervises the electric power industry, criticized the KEPCO executives and others' receipt of cash and valuables from the former deputy mayor.

"If it's true, it would be an extremely outrageous and grave situation," Sugawara told a news conference after a regular Cabinet meeting on Sept. 27.

"It's an extremely serious matter considering it is related to the confidence of the community hosting the nuclear power station," he added.

Declaring that the ministry will question KEPCO officials over the scandal, Sugawara said, "The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry will get to the bottom of the case and strictly deal with the matter."

(Japanese original by Yuhi Sugiyama and Yuichi Utsunomiya, Osaka Business News Department; Hiroko Michishita, Osaka City News Department, and Hajime Nakatsugawa, Tokyo Business News Department)

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