Arrests loom over helicopter exports

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 January, 2007, 12:00am

Police are to arrest executives of Yamaha Motor for exporting to China a remote-controlled helicopter that could be adapted for military use, according to media reports.

Customs officials in Nagoya halted the export of a 3.6-metre long helicopter to Beijing BVE Technology in December 2005. An investigation later revealed Yamaha Motor had sold 10 of the helicopters, which are designed for crop-spraying, to the Chinese company over the previous four years.

Another vehicle had been sold to Beijing-based Poly Technology, which the Yomiuri newspaper reported had links to the People's Liberation Army.

Officials of the Security Trade Management Division of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry agreed the aircraft were designed to spray up to 24kg of pesticides but added that they could be modified to disperse biological or chemical weapons. Yamaha was allegedly aware the helicopters could be adapted to military use.

It was also believed the helicopters, which were fitted with GPS and automatic pilot systems, could be used as airborne observation vehicles. The helicopters were due to be shipped to China via Hong Kong.

A Yamaha spokesman said it had been 'very surprised' about the investigation because it had followed the appropriate procedures.