Photo/IllutrationThe Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture operated by Kansai Electric Power Co. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

More officials at Kansai Electric Power Co. received gifts from a former deputy mayor who helped bring nuclear power plants to Fukui Prefecture and demanded contracts from the utility for his company.

Kansai Electric has admitted that 20 current and former executives and other officials received a total of about 320 million yen ($3 million) from Eiji Moriyama, who served as deputy mayor of Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, between 1977 and 1987 and died in March.

But according to an Asahi Shimbun investigation, Moriyama began distributing gift certificates and other products to at least 15 other Kansai Electric officials after he stepped down as deputy mayor.

Kansai Electric’s internal investigation only covered the period from 2011. A third-party panel is expected to announce an interim report on its investigation on Dec. 15.

Since October, Asahi Shimbun reporters have contacted about 60 individuals who were chiefs or deputy chiefs of three nuclear plants operated by Kansai Electric in Takahama, Oi and Mihama in Fukui Prefecture.

High-ranking officials who once worked at Kansai Electric’s branches in Wakasa, Fukui Prefecture, and Kyoto were also contacted.

Fifteen of those contacted admitted to receiving gifts from Moriyama. Five of them later became Kansai Electric executives, including two who rose to company vice president.

Twenty-nine denied receiving gifts, while seven refused to be interviewed. Meetings could not be set up with the others.

In addition, Chimori Naito, who was a vice president at Kansai Electric between 1983 and 1987, once admitted in an interview with the Asahi to receiving gifts from Moriyama. Naito died in 2018.

The gifts ranged in value from 100,000 yen to 200,000 yen. Some of the officials said they received gifts from a company for which Moriyama once served as an executive.

Many of the officials said they returned to Moriyama the equivalent of what he had given them.

The earliest gift recollected was handed over around 1987, shortly after Moriyama stepped down as deputy mayor.

Several of the officials said Moriyama asked that Kansai Electric award more contracts to companies related to him. Some said Moriyama even threatened to interfere with nuclear plant operations if they refused the request.

Over 10 years from 1987, sales at one of those companies in Hyogo Prefecture increased fivefold to about 9 billion yen, according to data from a private-sector research firm.

One former Kansai Electric executive said a factor behind the special treatment given to Moriyama was the start of operations in 1985 at two reactors at the Takahama plant. Moriyama had played an influential role in persuading the local community to host the plant.

Kansai Electric did not respond to questions from the Asahi, citing the possible effects on the third-party investigation.