Aug 27, 2006

Malaysia firm suspected of selling nuclear devices to Libya imported from JAPAN

SCOMI.. sounds familiar?

To refresh your memory, here are some past articles, BBC and CNN.

Extracted from Japan Times

Mitutoyo tied to nuke-linked export
Top execs arrested; device sent to Libya via suspect Malaysia firm

Tokyo police arrested the president and four other employees of precision instrument maker Mitutoyo Corp. for allegedly exporting equipment with atomic weapons applications to a Malaysian firm that is suspected of dealing in the nuclear black market, officials said Friday.

A device to take three-dimensional measurements that can be modified to make nuclear weapons appears in a Mitutoyo Corp. brochure.

One of the devices was found to have been used in Libya's abandoned nuclear arms program, and another one is suspected of having ended up in Iran's hands.

The Metropolitan Police Department arrested Mitutoyo President Kazusaku Tezuka, 67, and Vice Chairman Norio Takatsuji, 71, who was president of the firm when the equipment was exported, along with three other employees, on suspicion of violating foreign trade control laws.

Mitutoyo is suspected of illegally exporting two three-dimensional measuring devices that can be used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons to Malaysian subsidiary Scomi Precision Engineering Sdn. Bhd. in October and November 2001, trade ministry official Hiroyuki Murakami said.

The devices map cylindrical shapes in great detail and cannot be exported without government permission, according to officials from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The most advanced versions of the machine can be used to determine the dimensions of centrifuges used in uranium enrichment, Murakami said.

According to police sources, the devices were ordered by Scomi Precision Engineering, which is suspected of dealing on the nuclear black market set up by Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.

One of the devices was sent to Libya, via Dubai, aboard an Iranian-registered ship, the sources said.

The devices were discovered at a Libyan nuclear facility by International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors during IAEA checks from December 2003 to March 2004, the sources said. Libya abandoned its nuclear weapons program in December 2003 and subsequently allowed IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Malaysian police cleared Scomi of allegations that it knew the parts were bound for Libya and were intended for use in its nuclear weapons program. The company claimed it thought the devices would be used in the oil and gas industry in Dubai.

Mitutoyo failed to provide accurate information on the capabilities of the two devices in its export declaration, according to the police sources.

They added that video showing Mitutoyo employees briefing the Malaysian company on the use of the measuring devices was also found in Libya.

Police also suspect Mitutoyo may have exported similar equipment to a company connected with Iran's nuclear program through an Iranian trading house based in Tokyo. Police searched the office of the unnamed trading house, located in Shibuya Ward, on Friday.

Also on Friday, police raided the head office of Mitutoyo in Kawasaki, following up on an earlier raid in February over suspicions the company had exported similar devices to Japanese companies in China and Thailand in 2001 without permission.

Mitutoyo denied at the time that it had tried to evade the law. The company also claimed it was conducting an internal probe of its export and other procedures.

Mitutoyo, established in 1934, is a leading manufacturer of precision measuring machines and runs a network of research institutes and factories in more than 20 countries. It had consolidated sales of about 107 billion yen in fiscal 2006, which ended in March.

Japan's technological capabilities make it an attractive place to shop for countries or groups seeking nuclear weapons.

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