TOKYO -- Japanese police and prosecutors will conduct an on-site investigation at Kobe Steel Ltd.’s offices as early as Thursday, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported, opening the possibility of criminal charges being filed against the company that admitted to falsifying data last year.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police will conduct investigations at Kobe Steel’s headquarters in Kobe, its Tokyo office and several of its plants including the Mooka manufacturing unit for suspected violation of unfair competition prevention law, according to the Yomiuri and other Japanese media reports. The company currently knows nothing about the report and is looking into it, said spokesman Yoshitsugu Nishimura.
The country’s third-largest steel maker admitted in October it had misrepresented the strength and durability of parts sent to hundreds of customers from Toyota Motor Corp. to Boeing Co. The scandal led to the resignation of its president and sparked similar revelations from materials suppliers including Mitsubishi Materials Corp. and Toray Industries Inc. that have tarnished Japan’s manufacturing prestige.
"It appears the prosecutors and others want to find out what happened and collect evidence building up towards filing charges (against Kobe Steel). It’s not a new development," said Ikuo Mitsui, a fund manager at Aizawa Securities Co. in Tokyo.
Kobe has falsified data on its products shipped to over 600 clients and authorities suspect the repeated forging was committed at a company-wide level, NHK said.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office’s special investigative unit decided last month to work with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department on a joint probe.