American Toyota Exec Faces Prison Time for Smuggling Painkillers into Japan

By Victoria Kim 06/22/15

Julie Hamp, Toyota's most senior female executive, faces 10 years in prison.

Julie Hamp
Julie Hamp, drug smuggler. Photo via

A senior American Toyota executive, Julie Hamp, is at the mercy of the Japanese criminal justice system after she was arrested last Thursday for importing oxycodone into Japan. Customs inspectors discovered 57 pills of oxycodone, an opioid pain reliever that requires special permission to import into Japan, in a package sent from the U.S. addressed to Hamp at her hotel.

Hamp has since denied the allegation that she imported drugs. If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison. Japanese law is “much tougher” than in the U.S. when it comes to illegal substances; there are no plea bargains and prosecutors have a 99% conviction rate, said Robert Dujarric, the director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University, Japan Campus, in USA Today.

“Japan is not a country where you want to get caught with drugs,” Dujarric said.

The 55-year-old is Toyota’s most senior female executive. She moved to Japan in April, when she was appointed managing director and chief of global communications. The president of Toyota Motor Corp., Akio Toyoda, went on national television on Friday to issue an apology and show support for Hamp, who he called a “cherished companion” and an “irreplaceable” figure in Toyota.

The police are investigating who shipped the oxycodone to Hamp and how she intended to use them. So far, a routine health checkup conducted after her arrest showed Hamp did not have any health conditions that required the use of the painkillers, a source told The Japan Times on Saturday.

“We believe that the investigation will reveal that Ms. Julie Hamp did not have any intention of violating the law,” said Toyoda.

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