Toyota’s highest-ranking female executive, Julie Hamp, has been arrested in Japan for allegedly importing a controlled substance. Hamp, who recently relocated to Tokyo as the automaker’s new chief communications officer and a managing officer, was arrested on suspicion of smuggling 57 Oxycodone pills into Japan, a charge she’s fighting as she wasn’t aware it’s a controlled substance in that country.
According to Japanese media reports, citing police investigators, the painkillers “were found in a small parcel labeled ‘necklaces’ that was sent from the United States and addressed to Hamp in Japan,” according to Reuters.
The former General Motors and PepsiCo executive, who was named to her new role in April, told investigators that she wasn’t aware the pain killers were illegal in Japan, a spokesman for Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department told reporters. Hiroaki Okamoto, a criminal defense lawyer contacted by Reuters, said “the large number of pills meant that, if indicted, she could face years in prison, followed by deportation.”
Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda told reporters the company is standing behind her, issuing the following statement concerning her arrest:
I apologize for the confusion caused by recent events. At this point, we do not have access to all the facts, and I don’t think I will be able to explain the situation to you adequately. But I feel that it is important to address this issue publicly in my own words.
We will cooperate fully with the authorities as the investigation continues.
In addition to being a close friend of mine, Julie Hamp is an invaluable member of Toyota’s team. We are confident that once the investigation is complete, it will be revealed that there was no intention on Julie’s part to violate any law.
Prior to joining Toyota, Hamp was chief communications officer and senior vice president, communications and consumer relations for PepsiCo. She also was a member of the company’s executive council and foundation board of directors, and led a global team of more than 350 communications and consumer relations professionals.
Before joining PepsiCo, Hamp was vice president, communications for General Motors’ European region in Zurich. She was responsible for media relations, brand publicity and corporate communications for Saab, Opel, Vauxhall and Chevrolet, partnering with GM leaders in 27 countries.
Her earlier positions within GM include general director of communications for the Latin America, Africa and Middle East Region; general director for sales, service and marketing communications in North America; and vice president of communications for Saturn.