National

Kepco promoted three execs despite letters detailing shady gifts from deputy mayor

Kyodo

Kansai Electric Power Co. promoted three executives who received expensive gifts from a former deputy mayor of a town hosting one of its nuclear plants, despite its president receiving anonymous letters objecting to the move, company officials said Friday.

Letters were delivered to President Shigeki Iwane three times from March to June, accusing the three of receiving the gifts and calling on the utility to review their planned promotions to senior positions, the officials said, adding that Iwane read the letters.

The scandal, which broke in September, has cast a renewed spotlight on the shady ties between Japan’s nuclear industry and local officials.

Kepco admits 20 of its executives and officials received a total of ¥318.45 million worth of gifts from Eiji Moriyama, the late deputy mayor of Takahama, Fukui Prefecture.

“We had already finished an in-house investigation and taken disciplinary action against former Chairman Makoto Yagi and others” before the arrival of the letters, a utility official said, explaining the reason for not taking any steps.

Earlier this week, Yagi, the three executives who were promoted and another senior official resigned over the scandal. Iwane said he will step down when a third-party panel reports the results of its investigation into the matter, possibly by late December.

The letters were likely sent by the same party. They were also delivered to an anti-nuclear civic group in Fukui Prefecture in June.

Moriyama was paid a commission of around ¥300 million by Takahama-based construction company Yoshida Kaihatsu for orders won from Kepco.

The first letter, dated March 10, said, “The profits (from orders won by the construction firm) were eventually returned to company executives including Chairman Yagi,” it said.

Noting that the company was slated to hold a general shareholders meeting in June, it said “the planned personnel reshuffle of the executives needs to be reviewed.”

But Kepco announced on April 25 a plan to promote Ikuo Morinaka, who received ¥40.6 million, to vice president, and to promote Satoshi Suzuki, who received the largest sum of ¥123.67 million, and Shigeki Otsuka, who received ¥7.2 million, to managing executive officers.

The subsequent letters were delivered to Iwane in April and June, but the utility formalized the promotions of the three at its board meeting after the June 21 shareholders meeting.

The scandal even led Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to say Wednesday it is “crucial for the full story to be completely clarified by having a third party look into it.”

But his Liberal Democractic Party is pushing back against opposition lawmakers’ suggestion to question Yagi and six other related officials at the Diet.

“We want them to explain clearly. They may have profited from the public utilities’ charges and our taxes,” said Kazuhiro Haraguchi from the Democratic Party for the People.

As the fallout continues, safety work under government regulations continues at two reactors in Takahama because the plant is idled in preparation for its reboot.

“This case has given rise to doubts about nuclear plants’ safety,” said Yukihiro Higashiyama, a representative of a civic organization against the restart of Takahama’s nuclear power plant. “I request it to be decommissioned.”

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