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Prosecutors target bosses, not company, in Thai bribery case

Mitsubishi Hitachi Power gets off in Japan's first plea deal

A power plant gas turbine manufactured at a Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems plant in western Japan. The company has subsidiaries in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia.

TOKYO -- Tokyo prosecutors on Friday charged three former executives of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems with bribery in Japan's first plea bargain deal, but the company itself was able to avoid prosecution.

Tokyo prosecutors allege that the trio offered a bribe in connection with a power plant construction project in Thailand. They are believed to have paid 11 million baht ($329,000 at current rates) to a Thai port official in February 2015 for allowing them to unload plant equipment which did not meet the conditions to do so.

Mitsubishi Hitachi Power became aware of the bribe through a whistleblower the following month, and notified prosecutors that June. The company, which was offered a plea bargain last month, escaped prosecution in exchange for cooperating with the investigation under a framework introduced in June.

While prosecutors decided to build a case against the trio given their decision-making authority within the company, there is criticism against such an arrangement that holds individuals accountable but lets their company get off scot-free.

At the time, Satoshi Uchida, 64, was the head of engineering, Fuyuhiko Nishikida, 62, was general manager of procurement, and Yoshiki Tsuji, 56, was general manager of logistics.

Yokohama-based Mitsubishi Hitachi Power was created through the merger of the power plant businesses of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Hitachi.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has repeatedly urged Japan to crack down on overseas bribery cases. Prosecutors hope to use plea deals to collect hard-to-find evidence in such cases.

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