OSAKA -- A high-ranking official at Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO)'s Kyoto branch office was offered cash from Eiji Moriyama, the late former deputy mayor of Takahama in Fukui Prefecture that hosts one of the utility's nuclear power plants, in the early 1990s, it has been learned.
The revelation is the latest twist in the highly publicized payoff scandal, in which numerous senior KEPCO officials were found to have taken massive amounts of money and gifts from Moriyama.
According to retired KEPCO managers, the senior Kyoto branch official was handed a bag from Moriyama as a congratulatory gift when the former took up an executive post at the office. Upon realizing that the bag contained wads of bills totaling 100,000 yen, the official reportedly returned it to Moriyama right away, according to the sources.
Furthermore, the deputy chiefs of the Kyoto branch were traditionally in charge of dealing with Moriyama and passed down the job to their successors, it has been learned. Moriyama was mostly based in Kyoto for about 30 years after moving there from Takahama in the early 1990s, and continued to exert his influence on the branch. He lived in the city until 2017, and passed away this past March.
An in-house investigative report released by KEPCO on Oct. 2 revealed that three deputy managers of the Kyoto branch accepted money and gifts worth a total of 2.65 million yen from Moriyama between 2011 and 2018. However, the latest revelation indicates that Moriyama's gift-giving had begun decades before that.
After the cash handout in the early 1990s, Moriyama would frequently visit the Kyoto office. He was toured around the ancient city in a KEPCO-owned vehicle and was hired as an instructor for branch training sessions, among other preferential treatment.
When passing down the job relating to Moriyama, successive Kyoto branch deputy chiefs would tell their successors about a special policy in dealing with him, such as "treating him with an air of respect. Otherwise, the construction of nuclear plants would be adversely affected."
They also shared information about anti-nuclear power groups provided by Moriyama with other officials at the branch and head offices.
Between 2014 and 2017, the Kyoto branch placed orders for eight construction projects with Yoshida Kaihatsu, a Takahama-based construction company where Moriyama served as an adviser, without a competitive bidding process.
In keeping with Moriyama's desire to boost his area's importance, the Kyoto branch verbally requested the KEPCO head office's procurement department to "give consideration to the use of local companies." The procurement department accordingly placed orders with Yoshida Kaihatsu for "special reasons."
Moreover, there is testimony that the Kyoto branch shared yearly schedules for construction projects and other information with Moriyama, raising suspicions that the utility provided him favors.
A third-party fact-finding committee looking into the payoff scandal intends to draw up a report as early as late December, after probing whether there was a gifts-for-favors scheme between Moriyama and KEPCO officials.
(Japanese original by Yuhi Sugiyama and Kenta Suzuki, Osaka Business News Department)