National

Gifts and donations link official in Kepco scandal to second nuclear plant and ex-trade minister Hiroshige Seko

Kyodo, JIJI

A former senior Kansai Electric Power Co. official said Thursday he received gift coupons in the 1990s from a former deputy mayor of a town hosting one of the company’s nuclear power plants, though he was in charge of a plant outside the town.

Eiji Moriyama, the late deputy mayor of Takahama in Fukui Prefecture, later hinted that a particular firm undertake regular inspection work at the utility’s Oi plant in the same prefecture, the former official said.

The latest revelation suggests Moriyama was trying to involve himself in the operations of a nuclear plant in addition to the one at Takahama. Kepco has already admitted that 20 of its executives and officials received a total of ¥318.45 million worth of gifts from Moriyama.

After Moriyama stepped down as deputy mayor of Takahama in 1987, he visited the Osaka home of the senior Oi plant official in the mid-1990s, during which he gave him the gift coupons worth ¥100,000 to ¥200,000.

The Oi plant official said he initially refused to accept the coupons but took them after Moriyama became angry. He did not report receipt of the gift coupons to the company.

The official said he had been warned by a senior colleague that Moriyama might present him with gifts, so he later gave a necklace of greater value than the coupons to the former deputy mayor at his residence in Kyoto.

When the official and others related to the Oi plant subsequently dined with Moriyama, the former deputy mayor hinted that a particular company should undertake regular inspection work at the plant.

The senior official responded, “There are many companies,” but Moriyama became angry, saying he should be seen as representing the utility’s “most important” local partner.

Kepco Chairman Makoto Yagi and four other executives stepped down Wednesday amid growing criticism over the shady ties between the nuclear industry and local government officials.

Also on Wednesday, former trade minister Hiroshige Seko’s office said his fund management body had received political donations from a company head linked to Moriyama.

Seko’s political fund management body received ¥6 million from the head of Yanagida Sangyo, a maintenance service company based in Takasago, Hyogo Prefecture, according to the office. Moriyama served as an adviser to Yanagida Sangyo.

The body accepted ¥1.5 million, the maximum amount for a personal donation, every year between 2012 and 2015 from the company head, the office said.

Seko’s office said that the donations from the company head were handled appropriately as the money was reported in his political funding reports.

Seko now serves as secretary-general for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in the House of Councilors.

Speaking to reporters, Seko said the contributions were “strictly” personal donations. “I’ve never received business requests (from the company head),” he said, adding that he will not return the money. He said he did not know Moriyama.

The maintenance service company declined to comment.

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