Court vows action in Toyota bribery case

Court vows action in Toyota bribery case

Toyota Prius' assembly line at the Tsutsumi plant in Aichi, Japan, in 2016. The model is at the centre of a tax case in Thailand and a foreign corrupt practices probe involving Thai judges in the US. (Toyota Motor Corp photo)
Toyota Prius' assembly line at the Tsutsumi plant in Aichi, Japan, in 2016. The model is at the centre of a tax case in Thailand and a foreign corrupt practices probe involving Thai judges in the US. (Toyota Motor Corp photo)

The Thai Court of Justice has vowed to take action against wrongdoers following a report the US Department of Justice is taking the Toyota bribery probe involving three top Thai judges to a grand jury.

Law360, a website for law professionals, on Wednesday published an exclusive story on the case.

Toyota Motor Corp conducted an internal investigation after it suspected its subsidiary Toyota Motor Thailand (TMT) might have made payments to outside law firms or consultants that may have been passed to or shared with Thai judges, court advisers or others in an effort to secure a favourable outcome in the Prius tax case.

It disclosed the findings in a public filing earlier this year. The US Department of Justice and the US Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating the case. 

The case involves its Prius cars in which TMT wanted the Thai court to revoke the Customs Department’s import tax valuation.

The company claimed they had been assembled locally but customs authorities believed they had been pre-assembled and imported. At stake was an 11-billion-baht difference in import taxes over two years Toyota would have to pay the Thai government.  

The Appeal Court overturned the First Court’s ruling, deciding TMT would have the pay the rate assessed by the department. TMT is in the process of appealing the ruling. 

The report said federal investigators are seeking to establish whether TMT had paid a former Thai Supreme Court president and a Supreme Court senior adviser to persuade the Supreme Court president at the time to accept Toyota’s argument.

Suriyan Hongwilai, spokesman of the Court of Justice, on Thursday said his office had asked for information from US offices and was waiting for a reply.

He said if the Court of Justice found or could verify that the bribery had taken place, it would take disciplinary action, regardless of who the wrongdoers were or what positions they held by submitting the finding to the Judicial Commission.

Mr Suriyan urged all sides not to jump to conclusions before the cases were concluded in both countries.

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