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What may be legal in the United States can get you arrested in another country.
Toyota and its new head of global public relations, Julie Hamp, are learning that lesson the hard way. A U.S. citizen, Hamp was arrested recently on suspicion of illegally importing a drug into Japan.
Hamp recently relocated to Japan earlier this month. On June 8, a parcel labeled "Necklaces," was sent to Hamp from the United States. On June 11, it was intercepted at Tokyo's Narita airport. Upon inspection of the parcel, Japanese authorities found 57 Oxycodone pills buried among toy pendants and necklaces.
In the United States, Oxycodone is valid with a prescription. The same is true in Japan. However, anybody who wants to bring the medication into Japan must have prior approval from the government and must be traveling with the pills. They cannot be shipped into the country.
We do not know if Hamp had a prescription for the pills or not. She claims that she did not know that she was importing an illegal drug. Toyota's chief executive Akio Toyoda told reporters that he believes "Ms. Hamp did not intend to break the law."
Do you believe them? I'm skeptical. If Hamp thought importing Oxycodone was legal, why did the pills have to be hidden in a box with a bunch of toy necklaces? Why didn't she just have the pills sent in a box marked "Oxycodone"?
Employers sending their employees abroad for business or hiring employees from other countries should be careful about conflicting or strange international laws.
Provide employees with training on the culture, language, and laws of the foreign country before sending employees oversees. Also, don't forget about health insurance and medical care for employees while abroad. There are services that will help employees settle into the foreign country.
As of now, Hamp has not yet been indicted or charged with a crime. However, Japanese laws allow the police to hold arrested people for up to three weeks without being charged. A local criminal defense lawyer speculates that if convicted, Hamp could face several years in prison and deportation.
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