Japanese Police today raided several Toyota offices, including its headquarters, following the arrest of the automaker’s top global public relations executive for drug law violations.
The company declined to comment on the latest action by authorities in the wake of Julie Hamp’s arrest on June 18th. She is suspected of importing the narcotic pain killer oxycodone into Japan in a package Hamp reportedly mailed to herself from the United States.
After initially being hired to run PR in the U.S. in 2012, Hamp was appointed global communications director this past March, moving to Japan where she has been living in a Tokyo hotel for several months. She is not only the highest-ranking woman at Toyota but also one of the few to reach that level in all of Japan.
According to reports in the Japanese media, Hamp shipped the oxycodone to herself hidden inside a package of jewelry. While the drug is widely prescribed in the U.S. for a variety of pain-related problems, it is severely restricted in Japan, even for those who have prescriptions in other countries.
Hamp was arrested on June 18 under rules that allow a suspect to be held in custody for up to 23 days without formal charges.
She has not spoken to the media since her arrest, but in a strong show of support, Toyota President Akio Toyoda held a news conference last Friday during which he both apologized for the arrest and expressed his continuing support for the PR chief.
Toyoda, the grandson of the carmaker’s founder, went so far as to shoulder some of the blame for Hamp’s problems, telling reporters, “To me, executives and staff who are my direct reports are like my children. It’s the responsibility of a parent to protect his children and, if a child causes problems, it’s also a parent’s responsibility to apologize.”
(For more on Toyoda’s comments, Click Here.)
There has been some concern that Hamp’s problems may, at least in part, reflect resistance both to the idea of having foreigners in senior Japanese management positions and, in particular, to the unusual situation of having a woman in such a high-ranking and high-profile role. Questions of gender were a hot topic during Pres. Toyoda’s news conference.
(Hamp’s hiring was part of a broader move to bring more foreigners into Toyota’s Japanese-led management ranks. Click Here for more.)
At this point, Japanese authorities have not indicated how they intend to handle the case, nor why they chose to raid Toyota’s corporate headquarters in Toyota City, as well as offices in Tokyo and Nagoya.
A number of foreigners have been detained, and in some cases prosecuted, for bringing prescribed drugs into Tokyo over the years.
A New York City native who earned her degree at Ferris State University, in Big Rapids, Michigan, Hamp spent a number of years working for General Motors before leaving the auto industry to serve as communications chief at PepsiCo. She returned to the car business in 2012 working out of Toyota’s offices in suburban Los Angeles.
(Click Here for more about the arrest of Toyota’s Julie Hamp.)