Kobe Steel announces more cases of faked inspections data
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TOKYO — The scandal over product inspections data faked by Japanese materials and machinery giant Kobe Steel expanded Friday to include products shipped to more than 500 customers.
Kobe Steel's president, Hiroya Kawasaki, told reporters the company had uncovered nine more types of products whose inspections had been faked or manipulated, including copper alloy pipes and steel wire rods used in vehicle tires and engines.
The problems disclosed by Japan's third-largest steel maker are just the latest in a slow of product quality, accounting and corruption scandals that have dented Japan's image of superior manufacturing prowess.
The latest problems were discovered with shipments of more than than 11,000 tons of steel, copper, and aluminum products made by Kobe Steel and its affiliates in Japan, China, Malaysia and Thailand, the company said.
Kawasaki at times appeared close to tears while explaining how it was that the company had chosen not to disclose some of the cases that had been discovered much earlier and discussed at past board meetings.
"I apologize again for the tremendous trouble that we have caused to our customers and consumers," he said. "We are conducting a thorough analysis of the problem. The analysis will be key," he said.
Kawasaki said he did not expect any product recalls due to the misconduct.
The exact extent of the problem remains unclear since Kobe Steel has not identified the customers affected. But the company is a major supplier to many manufacturers, including automakers, aircraft manufacturers, semiconductor factories and nuclear power plants.
Other materials it said were affected by bogus inspections or faked data include steel powder, aluminum flat-rolled products and castings, copper strips and tubes and forgings.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., said Friday it had bought a backup duct for a heat exchanger for one of four reactors at one of two nuclear power reactors in northeastern Japan's Fukushima that narrowly survived the 2011 tsunami despite some damage.
TEPCO said in a statement that a Kobe Steel subsidiary, Shinko Metal Products Co., informed it the product came with inappropriate measurement data.
There is no concern over safety because the duct was bought as a backup and was not used.
TEPCO said it has requested further investigations by Kobe Steel of products shipped to the utility and its subsidiaries. TEPCO is also investigating.