TOKYO, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) Chairman Makoto Yagi resigned on Wednesday to take account 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 graft 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.
"The situation has caused our company to lose public trust and created enormous trouble. We have reached the decision that the president and I should step down to clarify management's responsibility," Yagi said.
At an extraordinary board meeting, KEPCO approved Yagi's resignation, although President Shigeki Iwane, 66, will step down following the results of an investigation by an independent panel, possibly by the end of December.
"I would like to exert my leadership in the company to find out all that happened in the scandal in an effort to revive the utility firm," Iwane told the press conference, adding, "We have received severe criticism from our customers and society."
Yagi has also relinquished his position at the Kansai Economic Federation, a business lobby based in Osaka, western Japan, where he served as vice chairman.
Both Iwane and Yagi had come under fire for initially refusing to resign to account for the scandal, which first came to light in September.
Yagi and Iwane were among the 20 people at KEPCO 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), with Yagi accepting 8.59 million yen (around 80,000 U.S. dollars) worth and Iwane 1.5 million yen (around 14,000 U.S. dollars) worth of gifts.
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.
Morinaka, for his part, received 40.6 million yen (378,000 U.S. dollars) worth of gifts from the late deputy mayor.
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.
Among the other executives, one was found to have received a cash payment of around 1 million yen (9,315 U.S. dollars) and gift vouchers to the tune of 400,000 yen (3,725 U.S. dollars), while two others accepted five tailor made suits gifted from 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 (around 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 in part from a 300 million yen (2.79 million U.S. dollars) commission Moriyama received from the construction company.
KEPCO said an independent panel of four lawyers is now investigating the graft scandal and will report its findings in late December.