TOKYO, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) Chairman Makoto Yagi resigned on Wednesday to take responsibility for a graft scandal which has seen scores of executives at the utility firm accept improper gifts and cash payments from contractors and a former official of a town hosting one of its nuclear plants.
Four other executives also stepped down to take responsibility for the scandal, which has been revealed to date back two decades and again cast serious aspersions over corporate governance at well-established firms in Japan.
Speaking at a press conference in Osaka, Yagi, 69, said that he wanted to clarify his responsibility in the scandal and highlighted the fact that a lack of corporate governance had led to the company not dealing with the scandal.
At an extraordinary board meeting, KEPCO approved Yagi's resignation.
Yagi has also relinquished his position at Kansai Economic Federation, a business lobby based in Osaka, western Japan, where he served as vice chairman.
Executive Vice President Ikuo Morinaka, who has been involved in the utility's nuclear business, is among the four executives who have also stepped down.
Twenty people at KEPCO were found to have received improper gifts and cash payments from Eiji Moriyama, the late deputy mayor of Takahama Town in Fukui Prefecture, host of KEPCO's Takahama nuclear power plant.
The illicit gifts given to KEPCO representatives by Moriyama totaled some 318.45 million yen (2.96 million U.S. dollars).
One of the executives, formerly in charge of the utility's nuclear business, said recently he first received a gift that could be considered a kickback for awarding contracts to companies two decades ago from Moriyama, in contrast to KEPCO initially claiming the graft scandal began around 2006.
The executive said he first received a gift from Moriyama, who had also served as an advisor to one of the utility's subsidiaries for more than 30 years, in the late 1990s.
KEPCO said an independent panel of four lawyers is now investigating the graft scandal and will report its findings in late December.