Former Mitsubishi bosses arrested
|6th May 2004
|Japanese police have arrested seven former executives of Mitsubishi Motors on suspicion of falsifying reports into a fault that caused a fatal accident.
The seven all worked for the company in January 2002, when a woman was killed by a wheel that broke off a passing Mitsubishi truck.
Up until March of this year it had blamed improper maintenance.
It now admits that a design defect in the wheel hub was to blame and has recalled 112,000 trucks in Japan.
The seven who have been arrested are also accused of professional negligence that resulted in death or injury.
Michio Hori, chairman of Mitsubishi Fuso, said he did not believe the former executives intentionally lied about the accident, saying crucial information did not reach top management and led to poor decision-making.
"We felt that we had to do something quickly from a safety point of view," he said.
"Whether that was a lie or not, I cannot give you any conclusion."
The mother of the victim said she would not forgive Mitsubishi for the rest of her life.
"It's a murder implicating the entire company," Yoko Masuda told a separate news conference.
One of the seven arrested is Takashi Usami, 63, former chairman of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp, who stepped down last month.
In total, 33 accidents involving wheels coming off Mitsubishi vehicles were reported between 1992 and the Yokohama accident in January 2002.
It is not the first time Mitsubishi Motors has been rocked for failing to admit a fault in its vehicles - back in 2000 it was also forced to own up that it had been hiding customer complaints for more than two decades.
Mitsubishi - the only Japanese auto giant in the red - is currently facing an uncertain future..
DaimlerChrysler, one of Mitsubishi's biggest shareholders and until recently its main source of finance, last month declined to continue funding the failing firm.
Graeme Maxton of motor industry consultants Autopolis said the arrests had deepened the sense of crisis surrounding Mitsubishi.
In a statement about the arrests, Japan's Transport Minister Nobuteru Ishihara described the accused's behaviour as "extremely evil", especially as it was not the first time that the company had denied faults.
"It is truly regrettable that Mitsubishi Motors has committed the same crime despite having been prosecuted and punished in 2000 for filing false reports," said Mr Ishihara.
"They falsified the reports to escape recalling the vehicles, and that is an extremely evil act."
If found guilty the seven arrested former executives could all face prison sentences.