Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Ex-Mitsubishi exec sentenced to 18 months for bribing Thai official

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A former executive of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Ltd was found guilty on Friday of bribing a senior Thai official in connection with a power plant project in 2015.

Anti-corruption authorities in Thailand are still building a case against the bribe recipients a year after the incident was first revealed.

The Tokyo District Court imposed a prison term of 18 months, suspended for three years, on Satoshi Uchida, 65. Two former subordinates convicted of conspiring with him were also sentenced in March to 18 months, suspended for three years.

The court accepted a plea bargain signed by prosecutors and Mitsubishi Hitachi Power, the first of its kind in Japan. Under the deal, the company was exempted from indictment in exchange for cooperation during the investigation and trial.

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The defence pleaded not guilty, saying “the defendant did not have the authority [to order the two executives to give a bribe] and did not approve giving cash [to the Thai official]”.

The court ruled the two executives consulted Uchida about the plan and he approved it, telling them they had no choice but to pay a bribe.

“He was responsible for decision-making,” Presiding Judge Yoshiya Yoshizaki said.

“We cannot deny [the Thai official] strongly requested a bribe, but that cannot be taken as a mitigating factor,” the judge said.

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According to the ruling, Uchida and the two executives conspired and paid 11 million baht in February 2015 to the official of the Transport Ministry in Thailand to receive favourable treatment in unloading cargo, after the official informed them the company had failed to meet necessary conditions for clearing the equipment.

MHPS was awarded a 30-billion-baht contract by the government in February 2013 to supply machinery to a gas-fired power plant in Nakhon Si Thammarat.

The bribery first came to light in Japanese court proceedings in July last year. The National Anti Corruption Commission (NACC) began investigating and recommended bribery charges be filed against four or five officials who allegedly demanded total of 20 million baht in bribes from the Japanese company after it delivered the equipment by sea.

MHPS had taken pictures of those demanding the bribes. NACC officials said those involved included a Marine Department official, a local politician, a village headman, and a marine officer.

So far, however, no formal charges have been laid in the case.

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