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3 Mitsubishi Workers Are Charged

October 11, 2002

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TOKYO (AP) _ Prosecutors charged three Mitsubishi Motors Corp. employees Friday with negligence in an accident that allegedly resulted from a defect that the Japanese automaker had concealed.

The three will be tried in the southern city of Kumamoto; a trial date has not been set.

Professional negligence resulting in injury is punishable by up to five years in prison or a maximum fine of $4,030.

The crash occurred two years ago, when the brakes failed in a Pajero sport utility vehicle. The driver was treated for stress, and two men in another vehicle involved in the crash suffered minor neck injuries.

Mitsubishi acknowledged in 2000 that it hid defects for decades.

Problems with failing brakes, leaking fuel, malfunctioning clutches and other flaws which led the Tokyo-based automaker to recall about 800,000 vehicles worldwide _ including the Pajero _ in 2000.

Kyodo News agency identified one of the defendants as Hiroshi Murakawa, then chief of the company’s quality and technology department, and cited indictment papers alleging the defendants knew of the defects but failed to take action.

Fumio Nishizaki, a Mitsubishi spokesman, said the company had questioned the three for failing to recall the models but declined further comment.

In March 2001, the driver and her husband sued Mitsubishi for 6.8 million yen ($54,800) in damages. They agreed to an out-of-court settlement, Nishizaki said, but refused to provide further details.

Domestic sales of Mitsubishi Motors, owned 37.3 percent by DaimlerChrysler AG of Germany, plunged following the scandal and have only recently begun to recover under a turnaround campaign, which included increased quality control.

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