Sat, Feb 24, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Yamaha three held over China chopper exports

AFP AND BLOOMBERG , TOKYO

Japanese police said yesterday they had arrested three employees of Yamaha Motor Corp, the world's second-largest motorcycle maker, for allegedly attempting to export to China a helicopter with potential military uses.

The three employees, who include Kazuo Uchiyama, senior general manager of aeronautic operations, are suspected of attempting to export an unmanned helicopter to a Chinese aerial photography company in December 2005 without approval from the trade ministry, a police spokesman said.

Ban

Japan bans the unapproved export of remote-controlled aircraft that can carry more than 20l of liquid or aerosol for spraying, according to Japan's trade ministry.

"We are deeply sorry for causing troubles and concerns to our customers, business partners and shareholders," Yamaha president Takashi Kajikawa said in a release yesterday. "All we can do now is to monitor developments in the investigation."

Yamaha, based in Iwata City, southwest of Tokyo, has sold nine helicopters to Beijing BVE Technology Co (北京必威易科技), a film company, since 2002, the company said last January.

The Beijing-based company used them to shoot footage for commercials and television drama, according to Yamaha. At the time, Kajikawa said the helicopters were for civilian use and the company didn't violate any law.

The police suspect the Chinese company has links with the People's Liberation Army, the Kyodo News agency reported without naming its sources.

The trade ministry in December 2005 conducted an on-site inspection of Yamaha Motor and spotted the alleged attempted export of the unmanned helicopter to Beijing BVE Technology.

Unlikely

The choppers, which cost ¥16 million (US$132,000) apiece, are sold mainly to farmers in Japan for spraying pesticides. The helicopters only have a range of 200m from the person who is controlling it and are therefore unlikely to be used to carry weapons of mass destruction, the company said last year.

The employees would be fined up to ¥80 million or imprisoned for as long as five years, if proven guilty, according to the government. The company may be also punished.

Yamaha sold about 300 remote-controlled helicopters in 2005 worth about ¥3 billion. That's less than 1 percent of Yamaha's annual sales of ¥1.38 trillion in 2005.

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