Ex-Professor Accused of Taking Bribes From GE-Owned Supplier
TOKYO (AP) _ A former professor was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of accepting bribes from a medical supplier to buy General Electric Co. medical equipment.
Kengo Matsui, 59, a former professor in the medical department of Yokohama Municipal University, was arrested along with three officials of Yokogawa Medical Systems Co., prosecutors said.
Yokogawa is a joint venture that is 75 percent owned by General Electric of Fairfield, Conn., and sells GE equipment.
Last month, the Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s Office arrested a professor in the radiology department at Chiba University Hospital and two other Yokogawa officials as part of the same investigation.
Analysts say deep discounting and practices bordering on bribery are common in the highly competitive medical equipment field in Japan, where gift-giving in corporate relations is customary.
Medical professors in a position to purchase expensive equipment such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) devices will be offered meals, trips and other sweeteners, said Mitsui Ohmi, analyst for Barclay’s deZoete Wedd Securities Ltd. in Tokyo.
In addition, the advantage of winning the favor of a professor is that his students probably would buy the same equipment. University professors here possess influence ″like an emperor,″ said Ohmi.
MRI devices use advanced technology to produce images of internal organs in human bodies, and can cost up to $3.7 million.
Matsui is suspected of receiving some 3.67 million yen, or $27,000, in travelers checks and airline tickets from Yokogawa in return for promoting sales of the company’s MRI scanning device to the university hospital between November 1989 and November 1990, Kyodo News Service said.
Since 1989, his hospital has bought two MRIs from Yokogawa, Kyodo reported.
Matsui, who was on the hospital’s equipment procurement committee, resigned from his position on Feb. 15, the day after the earlier arrests.
Among the three company officials detained Wednesday, prosecutors only confirmed the name of Masaharu Miura, 35, former manager of the company’s sales office handling business in Yokohama, 18 miles southwest of Tokyo.
A company spokesman, Yutaka Morita, said the company has been training salesmen to do ″fair business″ and did not instruct them to make bribes.
The prosecutor’s office refused to discuss the case.
Yokogawa Medical, which is also partly owned by Yokogawa Electric Co., had sales of $447 million in 1990. The joint venture was established in 1982.