TOKYO, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- Three executives at Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) accepted improper gifts and cash payments from contractors and a former official of a town hosting one of its nuclear plants, local media reported Thursday.
One of the executives, formerly in charge of the utility's nuclear business, said Thursday he first received a gift that could be considered a kickback for awarding contracts to companies two decades ago, in contrast to KEPCO claiming the graft scandal began around 2006.
According to Kyodo News, the executive first received a gift from Eiji Moriyama, the late deputy mayor of Takahama Town in Fukui Prefecture in the late 1990s. He said he returned the gift around six months later, which angered the former deputy mayor.
"I heard he played a crucial role in building our nuclear plant in Takahama. I also heard he was an extremely difficult person to deal with," the former senior Kansai Electric official was quoted as saying.
"I thought it was not right to receive the gift based on common sense. I did not seek any advice from others regarding my decision to return it, and it was difficult," he said with reference to Moriyama, an imposing figure with connections to politicians.
On Wednesday, KEPCO told a news conference that 20 of its officials had accepted improper gifts and cash from Moriyama who had also served as an advisor to one of the utility's subsidiaries for more than 30 years.
KEPCO said, however, that the officials had only been accepting gifts, which amounted to around 320 million yen (3 million U.S. dollars) since 2006, from Moriyama.
Three of its executives had also received improper gifts and cash payments from two contractors, one of which Moriyama was an advisor to, KEPCO said.
While one executive received a cash payment of around 1 million yen (9,340 U.S. dollars) and gift vouchers to the tune of 400,000 yen (3,736 U.S. dollars), two others accepted five tailor made suits given by a company awarded a contract by KEPCO, local media accounts said.
The construction firm has reportedly been awarded contracts from KEPCO worth around 6.42 billion yen (60 million U.S. dollars) over the past five years.
Tax authorities believe that the improper gifts given to the Kansai Electric officials may have been funded from a 300 million yen (2.80 million U.S. dollar) commission Moriyama received from the construction company.
Despite KEPCO admitting to its involvement in the graft scandal, Kansai Electric President Shigeki Iwane and Chairman Makoto Yagi said they do not plan to step down from their positions to account for the shady dealings.
Yagi said measures would be implemented to quash such practices at the firm henceforth.
The chairman himself, however, also received gifts from Moriyama between 2006 and 2010, it has been revealed.