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Toyota in damage control mode after American exec arrested

Friday, June 19, 2015, 15:22 GMT+7
Toyota in damage control mode after American exec arrested
Toyota Motor Corp's Managing Officer and Chief Communications Officer Julie Hamp speaks to media during a news conference in Nagoya, central Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo June 17, 2015 and released by Kyodo on June 18, 2015.

Toyota Motor Corp moved into damage control mode on Friday after its new communications chief, Julie Hamp, an American and its first senior woman executive, was arrested on suspicion of illegally bringing pain killers into Japan just two months after her high-profile appointment.

Japanese media reports on Friday quoted police investigators as saying 57 highly addictive Oxycodone pills from the United States were scattered in a small parcel addressed to Hamp in Japan and labelled "necklaces". The parcel contained toy pendants and necklaces as well as the pills, they said.

The former General Motors Co and PepsiCo Inc executive told police she did not think she had imported an illegal substance, a spokesman for Tokyo's Metropolitan Police Department said.

A police official declined to comment on Friday's media reports about the parcel.

Toyota in a statement late on Thursday said it was confident the investigation would reveal that Hamp had no intention of violating the law, but a company spokeswoman had no immediate comment on Friday's media reports.

Toyoda President Akio Toyoda is due to hold a news conference in Tokyo at 5 p.m. (0800 GMT) on Friday about the arrest.

Hamp, 55, was appointed managing officer in April as part of a drive to diversify Toyota's male-dominated, mostly Japanese executive line-up. She joined Toyota's North American unit in 2012 and had just this month relocated to Tokyo, where she was to be based. She had been staying in a hotel, a Toyota spokeswoman said.

Hiroaki Okamoto, a criminal defence lawyer at the Nakamura International Criminal Defense Office in Tokyo who is not involved in the case, said the large number of pills involved meant that, if indicted, Hamp could face years in prison, followed by deportation.

The maximum sentence for smuggling drugs with the intent to sell is life in prison, he said. Even if indicted for smuggling for personal use, it would be tough to get a suspended sentence because of the large number of pills, he said.

Oxycodone is a prescription drug in both the United States and Japan. Bringing the drug into Japan requires prior approval from the government and it must be carried by the individual, a health ministry official said.



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