Ex-Toyota exec Hamp freed after arrest on suspected drug offense

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 08, 2015 2:14 AM

By Kiyoshi Takenaka and Teppei Kasai

TOKYO (Reuters) - Former Toyota Motor Corp executive Julie Hamp was freed from police custody on Wednesday after Tokyo prosecutors said they would not indict her for suspected illegal importing of the painkiller Oxycodone into Japan.

Hamp, a U.S. citizen who became Toyota's chief communications officer and first female managing officer in April, had been held since her June 18 arrest. She resigned from the world's largest automaker last week.

An official at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office told reporters that prosecutors had taken into account the "social penalty" she had already incurred with her resignation from Toyota.

Local media had said on Tuesday that Hamp was unlikely to be charged because prosecutors judged there was little criminal intent in the case, which arose when her father mailed her the pills to alleviate knee pain. The highly addictive Oxycodone pills, found in a small parcel labeled "necklaces", had been placed in packets or buried at the bottom of the box, media reported.

Wednesday was the last day that Hamp could be held without formal charges.

Anticipating her release, dozens of journalists waited for hours outside the police station in Tokyo where she had been held but were only able to catch a glimpse of her as she was whisked into a Toyota Alphard minivan. Hamp, 55, held a black briefcase to her face as she emerged from the building.

A former General Motors Co and PepsiCo Inc executive, Hamp was promoted to her executive post in Toyota in April as part of a drive to diversify Toyota's male-dominated, mostly Japanese line-up of senior management. She joined Toyota's North American unit in 2012 and had just relocated to Tokyo in June.

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Toyota in a statement apologized for the incident, repeating that it remained committed to "putting the right people in the right places" regardless of nationality or gender. It added that Senior Managing Officer Shigeru Hayakawa had been appointed to replace Hamp as chief communications officer effective July 6.

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

(Writing and additional reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Edmund Klamann)