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Detroit prosecutors join criminal probe of Takata over air bags


(Reuters) — Prosecutors in Detroit have joined the U.S. federal probe into Takata Corp.’s defective air bag inflators that are linked to at least six deaths globally.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, Fraud Section in Washington “are jointly handling the criminal investigation into Takata,” Gina Balaya, spokeswoman for the Detroit office, said on Thursday.

She declined to comment further, citing the ongoing nature of the probe.

Takata’s North American headquarters are in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

Takata’s air bag inflators have been found to explode with too much force, spraying metal fragments inside cars and forcing automakers to recall more than 53 million vehicles worldwide since 2008. All of the deaths linked to the faulty part occurred in cars made by the supplier’s top customer, Honda Motor Co.

The recall could take years to complete as automakers line up replacement parts. Takata said it has built more than 3.8 million replacement inflator kits in total.

Takata could not immediately be reached to comment, but has previously said it is cooperating in all the probes looking at its conduct surrounding the defective inflators.

Last fall, federal prosecutors began looking into whether Takata misled U.S. regulators about the number of defective air bags it sold to automakers.

Last November, Takata retained Andrew Levander, a prominent New York defense lawyer, to oversee legal matters stemming from the faulty parts.

Officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also are investigating the company. In January, the safety agency announced it wanted to find whistleblowers with knowledge of any possible wrongdoing at Takata.

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