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Kobe Steel said employees’ cover-up hampered internal probe on data falsification scandal

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Staff Writer

Kobe Steel Ltd. said Friday that several employees had covered up deceptive practices in the firm, hampering internal investigations on the ongoing data falsification scandal.

The firm said when the misconduct within part of the aluminum and copper business section came to light in August, the company widened its internal investigation to the whole section and eventually to all its businesses.

However, some employees at a factory in Yamaguchi Prefecture did not report cases of data falsification after Kobe Steel expanded the investigation.

“Unfortunately, several employees including those in positions of management were involved. As a matter of fact, we discovered this yesterday and didn’t really have enough time to look into it, although we tried. We are not sure how and when they covered it up,” said Naoto Umehara, vice president of Kobe Steel, at a news conference in Tokyo.

Japan’s third-largest steel maker also disclosed that it is being inspected by the Japan Quality Assurance Organization, which authorizes whether products meet the Japanese Industrial Standards.

The inspection, which started on Thursday, found that some of the seamless copper pipes produced and shipped by Kobe Steel and Materials Copper Tube Co., a group firm, did not meet the national safety standards.

The firm has said the scandal has impacted about 500 companies including Japanese auto giants and railway operators.

Toyota Motor Corp. and other major Japanese carmakers said Thursday that aluminum plates provided by Kobe Steel used in the hoods or doors of their vehicles do not affect car safety.

But some manufacturers said Kobe Steel’s products are used for other parts and they are still confirming the quality.

Kobe Steel made its scandal public on Oct. 8, announcing that it had shipped 19,300 tons of aluminum and 2,200 tons of copper products as well as 19,400 pieces of aluminum forging and casting products that did not meet specifications the firm agreed upon with customers between September 2016 and August this year.

From there, more cases of misconduct have continued to emerge, including revelations that Kobe Steel group falsified quality inspection data for steel powders and steel rods.

The company said it was going to investigate the matter thorough an internal committee but now plans to launch a one composed of only outside experts.

Information from Reuters added