Ex-Japanese minister received ‘donations’ from scandal-tainted firm

Hiroshige Seko a close ally of Prime Minister Shizo Abe. (AP pic)

TOKYO: An executive in Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party received 6 million yen (US$56,000) in donations from the president of a company linked to a scandal surrounding Kansai Electric Power Co’s nuclear operations, Kyodo News said.

Former trade and industry minister Hiroshige Seko, a close ally of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, received the money between 2012 and 2015 from the president of Yanagida Sangyo, which employed the former official at the centre of the payoff scandal, the agency reported citing funding records.

The company’s website indicates that it has close ties with Kansai Electric, which has been shaken by the news that executives accepted millions of dollars from Eiji Moriyama, a former official in a town that hosts a large nuclear plant.

The payment brings the scandal, which has rocked the nuclear industry, a little closer to the ruling party.

Seko’s office said there were no plans at this point to return the money, which had been treated as appropriate donations from an individual.

In a faxed response to questions, the office denied knowing that Moriyama was employed by the company and said Seko had not been acquainted with Moriyama, who died at the age of 90 in March.

“Up until now, we have dealt appropriately with donations from individuals and companies linked to illegal activity, including by returning the money,” Seko’s office said. “We will continue to watch the situation closely”.

The revelations have come as a further blow to Japan’s nuclear industry, which has been struggling since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, and are likely to further delay the reactor restarts the government has been counting on.

It’s also a headache for the prime minister, who is a proponent of nuclear power as a cheaper source of energy than imported fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas.

Asked about the report, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Akihiro Nishiyama said Wednesday it was up to politicians to explain individual donations.