A number of former Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) executives are opening up about receiving money and gifts from a late former official of a town hosting one of the utility's nuclear plants since as far back as the 1980s, and such confessions by those who were not covered by the utility's investigation into the payoff scandal are likely to swell further.
The ex-officials testified to the Mainichi Shimbun that they received cash and gifts from Eiji Moriyama, the late former deputy mayor of Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, on the Sea of Japan coast, which is home to KEPCO's Takahama nuclear power plant.
"I remember receiving a congratulatory gift, which might have been coupons or a painting," a former KEPCO official who worked at the Oi nuclear plant in the neighboring town of Oi, Fukui Prefecture, in the 1980s told the Mainichi. The gift was an expression of congratulations for his appointment to an executive post.
"It wasn't worth a staggering sum. I returned the favor in some kind of form during the summer Bon holiday season and at the end of the year," said the ex-official, who had authority over orders for construction projects related to the Oi nuclear plant.
Another former official who worked for KEPCO's Wakasa branch in Fukui Prefecture in the 1990s also recalls receiving a paper bag containing sweets and a "thin box" from Moriyama immediately after he took up a high-ranking post.
"I was surprised to see it," the ex-official told the Mainichi. As it was difficult to return the gift on the spot, he says he gave it back to Moriyama at a later date. "I don't know how other officials dealt with such gifts."
It has also emerged that officials of KEPCO's non-nuclear power divisions also received money and gifts from Moriyama. At Kansai Electric Power Transmission and Distribution Co., which supplies electricity to households and companies, Takashi Fukuda, then head of the Power System Engineering Center in Osaka, and two then deputy heads of the center had received cash and gifts worth a total of 2.5 million yen since 2000. Fukuda currently serves as KEPCO's managing executive officer.
According to an in-house investigation report released by KEPCO on Oct. 2, a total of 20 officials had received money and gifts worth a total of 318.45 million yen from Moriyama and construction companies. The survey covered a total of 26 officials who were in a position that could have contacts with Moriyama between 2011 and 2018, but the former officials and the three officials at Transmission and Distribution Co. who testified to the Mainichi were not covered in the survey.
KEPCO plans to further investigate the scandal in a third-party committee to be set up shortly, but says the scope of the probe will be decided after the committee confers with the utility.
Hideaki Kubori, a lawyer versed in corporate governance, commented, "If KEPCO is to be involved in a decision over the scope of the investigation, the survey results could only end up just as the utility desired."
(Japanese original by Kenta Suzuki, Osaka Business News Department, and Naoya Matsumoto, Tokyo Business News Department)