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Police have urged Tokyo Electric Power Co., Nippon Steel Corp., NKK Corp. and Toppan Printing Co. to cut off long-standing transactions with firms linked to a major underworld syndicate that officials suspect effectively amounted to payoffs, sources said Tuesday.

The four listed companies admitted they conducted transactions with two firms linked to the Otowa-ikka unit of the large crime syndicate Sumiyoshi-kai, but claimed the business was legitimate.

They claim the money was paid to the two firms for the leasing of plants for offices and purchasing of tea products.

Each of the four major companies paid an average of between 10,000 yen and 250,000 yen a month to the two gang-affiliated firms for more than a decade, the sources said.

“Otowa-ikka was developing ties with firms several decades ago by soliciting ‘cooperation’ funds from them,” an NPA official said. “The four firms probably had remnants of such ties.”

Nippon Steel said it will terminate its deal at the end of March, and the three others say they have already done so. NKK said it severed transactions while integrating its operations with those of Kawasaki Steel Corp.

NKK and Kawasaki are now under JFE Holdings Inc., which was created Sept. 27.

According to the National Police Agency, one of the two Otowa-ikka-linked firms, based in Tokyo, sells tea products and is run by the wife of the Otowa-ikka leader. The other firm leases plants and trees and is led by an official of a rightwing group formed by a deceased leader of Otowa-ikka.

A Tepco official claimed: “We do not know the exact history of the business deal. The price offered was in line with the market and it was a normal transaction. We did not realize it was linked to mobsters, but after investigation, we decided it was inappropriate to continue doing this.”

A spokesman for Toppan Printing also denied the firm had known it was dealing with firms linked to underworld groups until it was alerted by police, saying the price and the quality of the service being provided were “appropriate.”

In September, Tokyo Dome Corp. — a listed company that runs the major baseball park, and a hotel, amusement park and other facilities in Tokyo — was found to have doled out pro baseball tickets to members of the Otowa-ikka group and let them use its facilities at a discount.

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