Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department has found that a 3-D measuring tool, which was illegally exported by Mitutoyo Corp and discovered in Libya, was first sold to a Malaysian firm with close ties to a Pakistani scientist suspected of establishing an international black market for nuclear materials.
The Kawasaki-based precision toolmaker is being investigated on suspicion of exporting products without government permission in violation of the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law.
MPD Public Security Bureau investigators were analysing documents in the belief that the tool’s presence in Libya was connected to the nuclear black market.
The device was found in a Libyan nuclear development research facility at the time of International Atomic Energy Agency inspections between December 2003 and January 2004.
According to investigators, the tool was initially shipped by Mitutoyo to Scomi Precision Engineering (SCOPE), a Malaysian toolmaker, in December 2001.
Mitutoyo’s affiliates in Singapore and Malaysia handed the 3-D measuring tool over to SCOPE in January 2002, but Malaysian authorities found it was shipped on an Iranian-registered freighter to Dubai in December 2002, and then to Libya.
SCOPE is said to have been founded by aides to Abdul Qadeer Khan, a Pakistani nuclear scientist suspected of being the nuclear black market’s mastermind.
The firm’s executives have apparently told Malaysian investigators that SCOPE received an order for the tool from Libya.
The executives said Mitutoyo sent engineers to teach SCOPE staff how to use the device. SCOPE staff in turn took instructional videotapes to Libya and taught Libyan personnel how to use the tool.
The Libyan government admitted to the IAEA that the tool was bought on the nuclear black market.
In October 2003, Libyan efforts to smuggle centrifuge components made by SCOPE for enriching uranium came to light. Investigators believe Libya asked Khan to arrange the smuggling attempt.
Illegal exports followed sale ban
Mitutoyo was denied permission to export a 3-D measuring tool to Iran in 1992, an incident suspected to have triggered a decision by company executives to illegally export products, MPD investigators said Tuesday (Feb 14).
According to the investigators, Mitutoyo applied to the International Trade and Industry Ministry, a predecessor of today’s Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, for permission to export the tool in July 1992.
The ministry did not permit the export under the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law because the product had the capability to be used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.
A Mitutoyo employee told investigators that in or around 1993, a company executive told employees in charge of export control to do something or the company would not be able to export anything.
Around the same time, some company employees are alleged to have discussed a measure to have the tool’s capabilities underestimated by removing parts at the time of shipment.
Investigators said they suspect that the failure to obtain permission to export the 3-D measuring tool triggered a decision, taken at the behest of the company’s executives, to export goods without permission.