National

Kepco investigative panel admits it won't make year-end deadline for report on Takahama gift scandal

Kyodo, JIJI

A third-party panel investigating the gift scandal at Kansai Electric Power Co., or Kepco, involving its executives and a former deputy mayor said Sunday it had interviewed over 700 people since October but would not be able to meet the utility’s year-end deadline.

“It is totally impossible to conclude the investigation within the year. I cannot promise to complete it by the end of the current fiscal year (in March),” panel head and former Prosecutor General Keiichi Tadaki told a news conference at Kansai Electric’s headquarters in Osaka.

“We want to go as far back as possible” in investigating the scandal, he added.

The panel has conducted hearings with more than 100 current and former Kepco executives and employees, as well as written interviews with around 600 employees and others related to its nuclear division who might know more about the ¥318.45 million ($2.9 million) worth of gifts being probed.

The items were received from late Takahama Deputy Mayor Eiji Moriyama, whose town hosts a Kepco nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture.

The utility has acknowledged that 20 people including former Chairman Makoto Yagi received the gifts over several decades. The panel plans to look into whether similar gestures took place at Kepco facilities other than Takahama, and investigate its nonnuclear divisions as well.

“We will continue to respond to the investigation sincerely while promoting our own steps to strengthen compliance,” Kansai Electric said in a statement.

Kansai Electric President Shigeki Iwane has said he will resign on the day the panel submits its report. Yagi stepped down in October.

The scandal came to light in September, exposing shady ties between Japan’s nuclear industry and local public officials.

After the scandal broke, the company was compelled to halt television advertising and suspend a plan to issue corporate bonds.