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Japan Files Criminal Complaint Against Food Executive - 2002-02-01

The Japanese government has filed a criminal complaint against an official of Snow Brand Food, accusing him of falsely labeling beef to profit from a government buyback scheme.

The complaint was filed Friday against a senior Snow Brand official and comes two weeks after the firm admitted it had relabeled foreign beef as domestic in order to receive government subsidies.

The government's buyback plan is intended to help Japanese beef producers who are struggling to contain huge financial losses following the outbreak of mad cow disease in the country last September, which has caused a severe drop in beef consumption.

Eating cattle with mad cow disease is thought to cause a deadly human variant of the illness.

Japanese electronics makers have received further confirmation that the global demand for their goods remains low.

Worldwide orders for computer chip-making equipment dropped more than 80 percent in December from the same period last year to about $200 million. That marks the 12th monthly decline in a row.

Toshiba and Fujitsu posted huge net losses Tuesday and said their unprofitable chip operations were partly to blame. Both firms have also revealed plans to slash additional jobs after heavy cutbacks last year.

Toshiba's vice president, Kiyoaki Shimagami, told reporters that the overall industry is having problems. He said his company's efforts have been weak but market conditions are very severe.

Rival firms NEC and Hitachi announced they will post operating losses for this fiscal year. They will also trim jobs to stay afloat.

The lower house of the Japanese Parliament passed a huge extra spending package Tuesday night. It is worth nearly $19 billion and will be used to support the economy, which appears to be to falling into a deflationary spiral. It is the second supplementary budget to be passed this fiscal year to help Japan overcome its recession.

Next week, the Bank of Japan will release wholesale price data for January.