Toyota Stands Behind Communications Officer After Arrest

Julie Hamp Charged With Importing Controlled Drug Into Japan

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Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda said he's confident the company's first female executive, Julie Hamp, didn't intentionally break Japanese law, a day after her arrest for allegedly importing a controlled drug.

Julie Hamp
Julie Hamp Credit: The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images

"Ms. Hamp is a very important and trustworthy friend and colleague," Mr. Toyoda, 59, told reporters Friday in Tokyo. "Ms. Hamp, who isn't a Japanese national, came to Japan to reside here full-time as an executive," he said. "Maybe we didn't provide enough support to her, to prepare her to settle here in Japan."

Tokyo metropolitan police arrested Hamp, 55, on suspicion she had imported the pain medication oxycodone, a police spokesman said by phone, asking not to be named in accordance with its policy. Ms. Hamp has denied that she imported illegal drugs, the police spokesman said.

Toyota made Ms. Hamp its first female managing officer in April, after she served as chief of communications for the automaker's North America region. She joined the company in June 2012 from PepsiCo Inc., where she was a senior VP. She worked previously for General Motors Corp.

The arrest was front-page news in Japan, where both foreigners and women are rare within corporate ranks. Toyota took a step toward diversifying its management earlier this year when its annual round of executive changes included promotions of both Ms. Hamp and Didier Leroy, who this week was elected just the second non-Japanese ever to join the company's board of directors.

Women held just 8% of management positions in private-sector companies in Japan last year, according to government data. Toyota had 101 female managers as of January 2014 and said it aimed to triple that total by 2020. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants companies to have women in 30% of leadership roles by then.

Oxycodone is designated as a narcotic in Japan and users need advance permission from the health and welfare ministry before bringing it into the country, according to the Narcotics Control Department.

The U.S. embassy in Tokyo warns its citizens to check before mailing or carrying medication to Japan, or face arrest and detention.

In March, a 26-year-old American was detained for 18 days after her mother mailed her an amphetamine medication for attention-deficit disorder. Carrie Russell, who was teaching English in Japan, left jail after three U.S. senators and Ambassador Caroline Kennedy pushed for her release.

-- Bloomberg News