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Toyota in defense mode after exec drug charges

Japanese carmaker Toyota has issued a public apology after its first foreign senior executive was accused of violating the country's drug laws. Investigations are now in full swing, police say.

Japanese investigators confirmed Friday they'd started questioning Toyota's most senior female executive, Julie Hamp, after finding controlled drugs she allegedly sent to herself via mail from the United States.

Hamp had recently been appointed as head of global public relations at the world's largest carmaker. Her promotion had made her the most prominent case in the company's drive to diversify its management dominated by male Japanese executives.

On Thursday, Hamp was arrested at a Tokyo hotel on suspicion of violating the country's drug control law by allegedly importing oxycodone – an opioid used to relieve pain.

Apologies the Japanese way

Doing that without permission from the authorities "is subject to one to 10 years in prison," a police officer told AFP news agency.

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda on Friday apologized for the turmoil and pledged his support for Hamp.

"We believe it will become clear that Ms Hamp did not intend to break the law," he told reporters.

"My immediate subordinates are like children to me, and it's a parent's duty to protect my child," he added.

hg/pad (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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