(c) Bertel Schmitt
Volkswagen’s Service Chief In Japan Booked For Drugs – Forbes
Japan’s auto industry has another high-profile drug case to gossip about, as a top executive of Volkswagen Japan was arrested yesterday for alleged drug use. Per Japan’s national public broadcasting corporation NHK , the man, identified as German national Thomas Siebert, age 53, admitted using cocaine. You are finished when you do that in Japan.
According to this and subsequent reports in major Tokyo media, police received a tip-off from the customs office in nearby Yokohama. When customs inspected incoming overseas mail, “what seems to be drugs” was found. Police and customs raided the house of the German executive in Tokyo’s swank Akasaka district. A tinkle-test came out positive. According to NHK’s police source, Siebert told detectives: “I admit to having use cocaine, but I did not use any other drugs.”
Thomas Siebert is Director Aftersales at Volkswagen Japan. Volkswagen Japan issued a short statement, immediately putting a little distance between itself and its man:
“We deeply regret the fact that an employee of our company has been taken into police custody for a personal matter. Currently this case is under investigation. As a company, we will fully cooperate during the investigation and take the necessary steps, as soon as the facts have been clarified.”
According to his LinkedIn profile, Siebert has been living in Japan since 2000, except for a 2 year stint managing parts at Volkswagen China and Singapore. With more Japan experience than most expats, he should be familiar with the strict policies of the country when it is coming to drugs. Japan has one of the lowest numbers of drug users in the world. The topic generally is taboo, and there is a very strict zero tolerance policy of the government, so severe that even the importation of Nyquil, or Sudafed is against the law.
Veterans of the Tokyo auto beat were immediately reminded of the lurid 2015 case of a high ranking Toyota exec. In a gesture towards diversity, Toyota’s CEO Akio Toyoda had made Julie Hamp, an American, and a woman, global PR chief of his company. A few months later, a FedEx package from the U.S. was opened by Japanese customs. It contained Oxycodone pills, a potent opiate, disguised as a necklace. Ms. Hamp was arrested, and after three weeks in police custody, she was extradited from Japan. She now advises clients in America.
In Japan, use or possession of even the smallest amounts of drug can lead to prison sentences of up to ten years. Repentant, and with a good lawyer, Mr. Siebert, can hope to be put on a plane to Germany after three weeks in a police lock-up, never to come back. Like Ms. Hamp before, Siebert-san has already been stripped of all titles and courtesies in the Japanese press, and will henceforth be referenced only as ジーベルト 容疑者 , or “Siebert suspect.”