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Prosecutors to build criminal case against Kobe Steel over falsified data

Kobe Steel Ltd.'s Tokyo Head Office is seen in Tokyo's Shinagawa Ward, on Oct. 24, 2017. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- A special investigation unit of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is set to build a criminal case against Kobe Steel Ltd. over falsified quality inspection data for its products, sources close to the investigation have revealed.

Specifically, prosecutors are poised to accuse the steel giant of violating the Unfair Competition Prevention Act. The Metropolitan Police Department is expected to send papers on the case to prosecutors shortly.

According to the sources, the data falsifications continued for many years, and based on confiscated documents and interviews with parties concerned, prosecutors determined that the firm carried out the data fabrications in a systematic manner and that it can therefore be held criminally responsible for the irregularities. The special investigation unit will also look into whether to pursue criminal charges against some executives at the firm.

A final investigation report released this past March stated that the company altered data on the strength and size of aluminum boards and other products to make the goods appear as if they met the criteria sought by clients. The irregularities date back as far as the 1970s and were called "tokusai" at plants -- a practice in which "concession" products that do not initially meet criteria but are reassessed and given the green light can be shipped.

The data falsifications allegedly took place at 23 plants and subsidiaries in Japan and abroad and the affected products were shipped to a total of 688 companies. At least 40 managerial officials were aware of the irregularities, including five who were on the company board.

(Japanese original by Kenji Tatsumi and Tomoko Igarashi, City News Department)

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