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Firm Says It Broke Nuclear Trade Law

October 15, 2006|From the Associated Press

TOKYO — Japanese precision instrument maker Mitutoyo Corp. has admitted that it broke export and foreign exchange laws in exporting measuring devices that can be converted for use in producing nuclear weapons.

The company also acknowledged in a statement issued Friday that four people, including former President Kazusaku Tezuka, 67, who were arrested in late September had admitted to the charges during a police investigation.

"We deeply apologize for having lacked a law-abiding consciousness as a company," the statement said, adding that company executives had long been involved in exporting three-dimensional measuring devices without proper government authorization.

The devices measure cylinders with great precision and can be used on centrifuges employed in uranium enrichment, a process that can produce civilian nuclear fuel or fissile material for a nuclear weapon, government officials say.

Mitutoyo said it would not contest the charges, and would cooperate fully with the inquiry.

Prosecutors suspect the Tokyo-based company of exporting two of the devices illegally to its subsidiary in Malaysia via Singapore in 2001.

Though Malaysia is not on Japan's export blacklist, Japanese laws still require companies to get government authorization for sensitive exports valued at more than $8,500.

Japanese media reports have said police suspect Mitutoyo exported similar equipment to a company connected with Iran's nuclear program.

Reports have also said that the International Atomic Energy Agency discovered machinery manufactured by Mitutoyo at nuclear-related sites in Libya during inspections in December 2003 and January 2004.

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