The worst crisis to hit Japan’s nuclear industry since the 2011 Fukushima disaster threatened to entangle PM Shinzo Abe’s ruling party amid scrutiny of donations to lawmakers.
Hiroshige Seko of the Liberal Democratic Party received
6 million yen ($56,000) of donations from the president of a company linked to the furor surrounding Kansai Electric Power Co’s nuclear operations, Kyodo News said. Seko’s office confirmed a donation, but didn’t provide further details about the amount.
The former trade and industry minister, a close ally of Abe’s, received the money between 2012 and 2015 from the president of a company called Yanagida Sangyo, the agency reported, citing funding records. Yanagida Sangyo had close ties with Kansai Electric and employed the former official at the center of the payoff scandal.
The scrutiny on ruling party lawmakers shows the widening fallout from revelations late last month that a local official in western Japan paid Kansai executives some $3 million of cash and gifts. The scandal prompted criticism from both sides of the political aisle and raised new doubts about Abe’s plans to restart dozens of nuclear reactors shut following the Fukushima meltdowns.
From August 2016 until last month, Seko led the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which sets long-term energy policy and nuclear-power-production targets.
Kansai announced the departure of two top executives,
including the immediate resignation of Chairman Makoto Yagi. President Shigeki Iwane intends to leave after an independent investigation into the payments from Eiji Moriyama, a former official in a town that hosts a large nuclear plant. Kansai has denied that the payments influenced the company’s contracting decisions.
Yanagida Sangyo’s website says it is an engineering company that lists Kansai Electric as its top customer. It has an office in each of the locations where Kansai operates a nuclear power plant.
Payments from a person of the same name as the Yanagida Sangyo president were made to Seko in the period reported by Kyodo, according to documents posted on a ministry website.