Troubled Japanese car maker Mitsubishi Motors faced a new scandal on Thursday after police arrested seven former executives on suspicion they falsified a report over a fatal accident in which a wheel flew off one of its trucks.


Associated Press (AP) said police raided the Tokyo headquarters of Mitsubishi’s truck-making affiliate, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp., earlier in the day in connection with the case.


The seven arrested were Mitsubishi Motors executives in January 2002, when a woman was killed by a wheel that broke off the axle of a passing Mitsubishi truck, a police spokesman in Kanagawa prefecture (state) told AP on condition of anonymity.


AP said Japanese media reported that, in a report to industry regulators, Mitsubishi Motors blamed poor maintenance, even though executives were aware of defects in the wheel hubs of some of the company’s vehicles.


The Tokyo-based vehicle maker, which is 37% owned by DaimlerChrysler, has been struggling to restore confidence in its brand name since it was hit by a cover-up scandal four years ago. Then, the company admitted concealing thousands of owner complaints to avoid having to order a recall, the news agency noted.


AP said police declined to identify the seven executives arrested on Thursday but media reports said that one was formerly chairman of Mitsubishi Fuso, which was spun off from Mitsubishi Motors in January 2003, and that three still work for the truck maker.


The Japanese government filed a separate criminal complaint against Mitsubishi Motors on Thursday, the report added.


Associated Press said the arrests could further shake a company struggling with financial headaches after DaimlerChrysler said last month it would not pump any more money into Mitsubishi Motors, Japan’s fourth-largest carmaker, dashing speculation that it was preparing to commit up to several billion dollars to a restructuring plan.


The seven suspects arrested reportedly included Takashi Usami, 63, who was a vice president at Mitsubishi Motors when the accident occurred, the report said.


Usami reportedly resigned as Mitsubishi Fuso chairman last month in a show of contrition for a belated recall of thousands of Mitsubishi trucks, ordered after the company acknowledged that a design flaw could cause the hubs to crack.


AP said authorities are investigating dozens of wheel-separation accidents involving Mitsubishi trucks dating back more than a decade.


DaimlerChrysler owns 65% of Mitsubishi Fuso, Mitsubishi Motors holds 20% and other companies in the Mitsubishi business group have 10%, Associated Press added.