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Kansai Electric details nuclear execs' acceptance of massive gifts

Kansai Electric Power Co. Chairman Makoto Yagi, second from left, and President Shigeki Iwane, third from left, bow in apology at a press conference in Osaka's Fukushima Ward, on Oct. 2, 2019. (Mainichi/Yoshiyuki Hirakawa)

OSAKA (Kyodo) -- Kansai Electric Power Co. said Wednesday two executives who were responsible for its nuclear business both received more than 100 million yen ($929,000) as gifts from a former official of a town hosting one of its nuclear plants, as the utility disclosed additional information on the money scandal involving more than a dozen officials.

The disclosure has re-exposed the collusive ties between Japan's nuclear industry and government officials. Of the 318.45 million yen worth of gifts 20 people at Kansai Electric received, the largest amount of 123.67 million yen went to managing executive officer Satoshi Suzuki, followed by 110.57 million yen for former deputy president Hideki Toyomatsu, the company said.

Toyomatsu, who retired from the post in June, used to be the head of the utility's nuclear power division in Fukui Prefecture, where the town of Takahama is located, while Suzuki serves as acting chief of the division.

Speaking at the second press conference since the scandal came to light last week, President Shigeki Iwane and Chairman Makoto Yagi, however, said they do not plan to step down from their posts at the company or business lobbies.

"It is my largest responsibility to exercise leadership together with (Iwane) and make utmost efforts in pursuing the cause," Yagi said in Osaka, where Kansai Electric is headquartered, adding that the late former deputy mayor of Takahama's offering of gifts escalated since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan, which triggered the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

A report released by Kansai Electric on Wednesday said Eiji Moriyama, who died aged 90 in March this year, had a wide network of connections with Japanese lawmakers and he had threatened to obstruct operation of the company's nuclear power facilities if it did not comply with his wishes.

An independent panel will be set up to investigate the expanding scandal involving 20 officials at Kansai Electric and the late former deputy mayor, and the two said they will decide what to do after looking at a report it compiles by the end of this year.

It said the acceptance of gifts from Moriyama started in 2006 and continued through one month before his death.

Iwane himself received gifts worth 1.5 million yen from Moriyama, according to the report.

Kansai Electric subjected Yagi, who accepted 8.59 million yen worth of gifts from the late deputy mayor, and Toyomatsu to a 20 percent cut in remuneration for two months and Iwane to the same for one month.

The company also admitted that the gifts from Moriyama included U.S. dollars, gold coins, and gift coupons for tailored suits.

While the officials returned or repaid most of them, 34.87 million yen worth of gifts still remain unreturned, it said.

Kansai Electric was criticized after its press conference last Friday for refusing to disclose details, citing the need to protect personal information.

Still, of the 20 people, the utility on Wednesday only disclosed the names of 12 individuals.

An investigation by tax authorities has found that Moriyama received a 300 million yen commission from a local construction company that was hired for projects at the Takahama nuclear complex, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

Moriyama told authorities that he had sent the gifts as a token of his appreciation for Kansai Electric's support for the town, which is heavily dependent on the Takahama plant.

Money and goods returned by four individuals were found in Moriyama's residence with a note from Kansai Electric confirming the return, the names of the individuals and the date.

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