Japanese exec denies Thai bribery link

Japanese exec denies Thai bribery link

TOKYO: A former executive of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Inc on Friday denied involvement in bribing a senior Thai civil servant in connection with expediting a power plant project in 2013.

Satoshi Uchida made the claim in a Tokyo courtroom in a case notable for being the first of its kind in Japan to involve a plea-bargain deal, in which his two subordinates earlier admitted to bribery so that the company would escape prosecution.

Uchida, 64, was indicted for allegedly conspiring with two subordinates to pay 11 million baht in February 2015 to a senior official of the Transport Ministry for his help in clearing the delivery of equipment for the 30-billion-baht power plant project in Nakhon Si Thammarat.

“I have not provided money in conspiracy” with the two, Uchida told the Tokyo District Court in his first hearing.

The other executives — Fuyuhiko Nishikida, 63, and Yoshiki Tsuji, 57 — admitted to the bribery allegation during their trial in December.

Prosecutors claim Nishikida and Tsuji reported to Uchida that they were asked for a bribe by the Thai official, who has still not been identified, and Uchida approved and paid through a Thai construction company by creating a fraudulent contract.

The Yokohama-based company was awarded a 30-billion-baht contract by the government in February 2013 to supply the machinery for the 5,300-megawatt gas-fired power plant in the southern province.

Nishikida and Tsuji confessed that the bribe was deemed necessary when they were told they had failed to meet the conditions for discharging cargo. Without the bribe, they said, this “would have taken four to five months which, would have cost the company up to 6 billion yen in delay damages”.

Under the plea bargain, MHPS escaped indictment in exchange for its cooperation with the investigation and trials by providing necessary documents.

The company learned of the matter in March 2015 after being alerted by a whistleblower, and later reported it to the Tokyo prosecutors following an internal probe.

The National Anti Corruption Commission in July last year recommended that bribery charges be brought against four or five officials who allegedly demanded a total of 20 million baht from the Japanese company when it delivered equipment by sea to build the power plant.

It said at the time that it was looking into the activities of a Marine Department official, a local politician, a village headman and a marine police officer. The Japanese company reportedly supplied pictures of the suspects. There has been no follow-up in the case since then.

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