TOKYO — The former Toyota (IW 1000/8) executive arrested in Japan for allegedly importing a controlled drug was released after three weeks in custody Wednesday after prosecutors dropped the case against her.
Julie Hamp, 55, who quit her job as global public relations head at the world's largest automaker just months after being appointed, emerged from a Tokyo police building and was driven away in a waiting car.
She knew the painkiller oxycodone was tightly regulated in Japan, but had her father send the drugs for her knee pain, prosecutors said.
Investigators decided not to prosecute her, saying that her intent was not malicious enough, and that she did not plan to use the drug to get high. They said that she has already faced "social punishment," including having resigned from the firm, a senior Tokyo prosecutor told reporters.
The notion of social punishment — publicly dragging someone over hot coals — is common in Japan, and unofficially regarded as a potential deterrent.
Toyota again apologized over the case, which made headlines in Japan, where drug laws and social disapproval of drugs are more severe than in Europe and North America.
"We intend to learn from this incident by reinforcing our guiding principles of honoring the language and spirit of the law," the firm said in a statement. "Furthermore, we will continue to strive to create a more secure working environment for everyone at Toyota around the world," it said.
Oxycodone — an opioid used to relieve pain — is legal in Japan with a prescription, but importing it without permission from the authorities is illegal and could be punished by up to 10 years in prison.
Hamp was arrested last month in Tokyo after her package containing oxycodone was intercepted at the airport.
The parcel was sent to her on June 8 from the U.S. and arrived three days later at Tokyo's Narita airport, where it was intercepted.
The package, labelled "necklaces," contained several small boxes, each holding accessories and several tablets, media reports have said, adding that police suspect there had been an attempt to hide the drug.
After her arrest, Toyota's chief executive Akio Toyoda apologized and pledged his support for Hamp, who in April became the company's first non-Japanese executive posted to work permanently in Toyota's home market.
Toyota announced last week that she had resigned.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015