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Mitutoyo exported 10,000 devices since 1995, most of them illegally+
[August 31, 2006]

Mitutoyo exported 10,000 devices since 1995, most of them illegally+


(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) TOKYO, Aug. 31_(Kyodo) _ Mitutoyo Corp., a precision instrument maker at the center of an export scam linked to weapons of mass destruction, has exported some 10,000 precision measuring devices, most of them illegally, since around 1995, investigative sources said Thursday.



The Metropolitan Police Department's Public Safety Division is investigating the possibility that some of these instruments were exported to North Korea and other nations suspected of developing nuclear weapons via a nuclear black market formerly run by Pakistani nuclear physicist Abdul Qadeer Khan, the sources said.

In addition, the police are investigating suspicions that a Mitutoyo-made precision measuring machine of a different type from the firm's three-dimensional measuring machine that went to Libya via Khan's smuggling network was exported to an Iranian firm suspected of links to Iran's nuclear development program, they said.


On Aug. 25, the police arrested Mitutoyo Vice Chairman Norio Takatsuji, President Kazusaku Tezuka, and three other executives on suspicion of illegally exporting two high-tech measuring devices convertible for use in the manufacture of nuclear weapons to Malaysia in 2001.

One of the two 3-D measuring machines was found in a nuclear research facility in Libya by International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors during their 2003-2004 checks.

The machines can be used to make centrifuge machines to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons by determining their dimensions and minimizing shape distortions with high accuracy. Their export is subject to restrictions under the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law and the Export Trade Control Ordinance.

The police found that Mitutoyo's two other precision measuring instruments -- a form tracer for measuring the roughness of the surface of products and a roundness tester -- were handed over to Scomi Precision Engineering Sdn. Bhd. of Malaysia, suspected of being at the core of Khan's network, the sources said.

The police are investigating fresh suspicions that the two devices were exported to Libya as a "three-item set" with one of Mitutoyo's two 3-D measuring machines, which had been found to have been shipped via Dubai to Libya on an Iranian-registered vessel, they said.

The sources knowledgeable about investigations at the Public Safety Division said the Mitutoyo management decided to expand exports in the first half of the 1990s when its sales dived.

Then its project team developed computer software to make its precision measuring machines appear less accurate than they are to bypass Japan's export regulations on high-tech products convertible for the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction, the sources said.

Although some Mitutoyo employees alerted the management to the illegality of exporting high-performance machines using the software, referred to with an in-house code name of "COCOM," Takatsuji and others silenced the critics, telling them such exports have been decided as "a company policy," they said.

In addition to disguising the precision machines as devices with lower capabilities than they actually have, Mitutoyo filed export permit applications with customs, in which they falsely said their overseas arms were the final destinations of the machines to bypass the regulations on exports to countries and firms suspected of developing weapons of mass destruction, they said.

Mitutoyo, based in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, is a leading maker of high-tech precision measuring machines and runs a network of subsidiaries, research institutes and factories in more than 20 countries, including the United States, Europe and Asia.

Takatsuji and Tezuka acknowledged the allegations related to the exports to Malaysia for which they had been arrested, informed sources said, adding the two executives have denied that the management ordered employees to bypass the export regulations.

But a senior official at the Public Safety Division said they believe the management issued such orders, adding Mitutoyo "has placed priority on just boosting sales and I cannot find any sense of ethics in them as a company."

Copyright 2006 Kyodo News International, Inc.

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