The president of an Osaka-based trading company and the chief of one of its sales branches have been accused of hiring Vietnamese whose visas had expired because they were unable to return home due to the coronavirus pandemic, police said Monday.
The police said they referred Yuki Shirai, 29, president of DMI, and a 26-year-old heading a sales branch in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, to prosecutors without detaining them on suspicion that they helped Vietnamese people in Japan to work illegally.
The police, which also referred the company to prosecutors, believe DMI used the Vietnamese as a cheap source of labor for packing food and other jobs.
"As we hired many people amid a labor shortage, illegally overstaying foreign nationals slipped into our workforce," Shirai told Kyodo News, adding the company did not check whether they were eligible to work in Japan.
The Vietnamese employees were paid 970 yen an hour, just above the 964 yen minimum wage in the prefecture. The police believe the company may have hired them due to a failure to recruit other workers.
The sales branch head denied the charges and was quoted by the police as saying he had "left the visas up to the president."
The two are suspected of having employed four Vietnamese citizens to work at the branch in Sakai between late June and early December, regardless of their visa status.
The police have already taken action against the four Vietnamese who worked at the company for engaging in activities other than those permitted under their visa.
Among them, a woman in her 20s, who was convicted of the charge, said during her trial at the Osaka District Court that she came to Japan in March last year on a temporary visitor's visa.
Her return flight to Vietnam was canceled due to the virus outbreak and she used up her money. The woman said she engaged in wrapping fruit between June and December in the company's office in Sakai in the western Japan prefecture.© KYODO