Japan's first plea bargain reached in Thai officials bribery case

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Japan's first plea bargain reached in Thai officials bribery case

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Japan’s first plea bargain reached in Thai officials bribery case

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

July 15, 2018 at 18:00 JST

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In the first plea bargain struck in Japan after the system was introduced in June, Tokyo prosecutors and a Japanese company have reached an agreement over a bribery case involving public servants in Thailand, sources said.

The Special Investigation Department of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has been investigating a bribery allegation involving Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Ltd. on suspicion of breaching the Unfair Competition Prevention Law by giving bribes to foreign public officials.

MHPS has decided to cooperate with investigators by providing details of the case in return for their assurances that the company will not be prosecuted, according to the sources.

The company was established in February 2014 after Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Hitachi Ltd. integrated their management of the thermal power plant divisions.

The alleged bribery concerned a project to construct a power plant in Thailand. MHI won contracts for the project in 2013, which was later taken over by MHPS.

The special investigation squad believes that employees with MHPS overseeing the project gave Thai public servants a large bribe in connection with the project, according to the sources.

An in-house investigation at MHPS has confirmed the misconduct of the employees and given information about them to investigators.

The violator of the law faces a fine of up to 300 million yen ($2.67 million) in penalties if convicted.

A public relations official at MHPS said in a reply to The Asahi Shimbun, “We do not have anything to say at this stage .”

In the plea bargaining system, an individual or corporate entity can have the charges against them dropped or reduced if they provide information on another party's criminal activities.

A company can also strike a plea bargain deal about a crime committed by its employees when it faces criminal punishment as an entity.

Experts say that locating the flow of funds in a bribery case involving public servants in a foreign country is extremely difficult for investigators because there are multiple brokers serving as a go-between for a business offering bribes.

Authorities’ probes will now go smoother if Japanese investigators can compel a business to cooperate under a plea bargain agreement, they added.

When a company is punished for bribing foreign public officials, it faces the prospect of not being allowed to have business dealings with international financial institutions.

An attorney familiar with corporate law said a business wi ll be put at a great disadvantage if found guilty in a criminal case.

“Many businesses may come forward to strike a plea bargain deal with prosecutors to avoid their companies being punished,” the attorney said.

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