TOKYO – Japanese steel manufacturer Kobe Steel admitted on Wednesday that Japan’s Justice Ministry has opened an investigation into the case of technical data manipulation of some of its products that has affected more than 600 companies worldwide.
Kobe Steel is cooperating with the investigation, the company said in a statement without specifying who is in charge or when it began.
The statement came after Japanese economic daily Nikkei reported Wednesday that the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office and the the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department have begun investigating the data tampering looking for violations of law that could lead to criminal charges.
Kobe Steel is already being investigated by the United States Department of Justice, which shortly after the revelation of the scandal in October, asked through its subsidiary in Japan – Kobe Steel USA – to see documents related to the products sold to US companies.
The judicial investigation in Japan opens a new chapter in the scandal that broke out in late 2017 when Kobe Steel admitted to manipulating data on products of aluminum, steel, copper, iron filings and sputtering materials used in liquid crystal displays.
Kobe Steel shares fell 3.55 percent at the Tokyo Stock Exchange Wednesday after the company acknowledged the investigation.
According to the last report presented on March 23, the affected products were shipped to more than 600 companies worldwide in sectors ranging from automobiles to aeronautical, railway and military equipment, and that data tampering went back to the 1970s in one of its domestic plants.
The fraud consisted in manipulating certificates of the internal inspections of some products, which were rewritten to make the technical data meet with the specifications set by clients, who are yet to report problems of safety issues regarding the materials.
The scandal, coupled with a series of similar violations at other conglomerates, has undermined the credibility of the Japanese private sector and led to the resignation of Hiroya Kawasaki as president of Kobe Steel with Mitsugu Yamaguchi replacing him.