The US Department of Justice has been on a campaign over the past few years to crack down on price fixing in the auto industry, especially from Japanese parts suppliers. In the agency's most recent count, it has indicted 46 people with 26 guilty pleas and raised over $2.4 billion in fines from 31 companies, including nine at once in 2013. Unfortunately, about 20 of these men remain fugitives from the DoJ and catching them might be very difficult.

As a perfect illustration of the problem, the DoJ indicted Hiroya Hirose from NSK Ltd. and Masakazu Iwami from Jtekt Corporation on November 13 for alleged price fixing against Toyota. Both men face up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine, if found guilty in the US. However, neither of them may ever set foot behind bars, let alone even make it to US soil to stand trial. According to an investigation by Automotive News, Hirose is still employed at NSK in Japan and is the section head of one of its automotive units. This is despite being a fugitive in the eyes of US law enforcement. Although, this is among the most brazen examples. When contacted by AN, some of the other companies said the indicted executives no longer worked there.

The conundrum facing the DoJ is how to get the men extradited here to actually be tried. According to Automotive News, a conviction for price fixing in Japan carries no jail time. The feds can't just send bounty hunters across the Pacific to round these execs up, either. Bringing them over requires consent by the Japanese government, and it's loath to ship citizens to a foreign country to face a much harsher penalty.

There doesn't appear to be a great solution to getting these men to the US, but the DoJ still has plenty of work to do against the price fixing of automotive parts. One recent report claimed that the problem goes well beyond just Japan. Even if the agency can't get these men, there are other targets to go after.

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