Police Raid Home of Ex-Mitsubishi Head

Police on Monday raided the home of the former president of Mitsubishi Motors Corp. (search), who was arrested last week on suspicion of hiding auto defects.

Investigators searched Katsuhiko Kawasoe's (search) home in Nagoya, 170 miles west of Tokyo, apparently looking for evidence to back up charges related to a cover-up of defects suspected in a 2002 fatal accident.

Kawasoe resigned in disgrace four years ago when the Tokyo-based automaker acknowledged having hidden auto defects for decades.

In the 2002 accident, a driver slammed into a building and died after the brakes on his Mitsubishi truck failed. Investigators suspect a clutch system defect that company officials are believed to have known about as early as 1996.

Kawasoe and other Mitsubishi officials failed to report the defect to authorities or carry out a recall, police said. The Mitsubishi truck unit admitted to the clutch defect this year.

Kawasoe, 67, and the others are in custody, and prosecutors are deciding whether to file official charges. They have been arrested on charges of professional negligence resulting in death, a conviction punishable by a prison term of less than five years or a fine of up to $4,500.

Mitsubishi Motors has announced several recalls in recent weeks and has acknowledged it did not make good on its 2000 promise to unveil all hidden defects. The president of the truck unit, Wilfried Porth, scheduled a news conference for later Monday to give more details of 97 design defects the company disclosed only recently.

Last month, five former and current Mitsubishi officials were charged in a separate fatal accident, the death of a pedestrian crushed by a wheel that rolled off a Mitsubishi truck in 2002.

Mitsubishi Motors' image has been badly hurt by the cover-up scandal. Sales in Japan are down nearly 60 percent from a year ago.

Police say Kawasoe and the others failed to follow orders from authorities to report auto defects, dealing only with reported problems dating back to March 1998 and choosing to overlook suspected clutch defects first noted in 1996.

Mitsubishi Motors has announced several revival plans in recent years, promising to beef up quality control under the guidance of its German-American partner DaimlerChrysler AG. But the spate of recalls has not ended.

Earlier this year, DaimlerChrysler decided not to inject any additional cash into the turnaround plans, and Mitsubishi Motors announced another plan last month with cash from the Mitsubishi group and other companies.

Mitsubishi reported a $2 billion loss for the fiscal year ended March 31, and it expects to stay in the red this fiscal year.