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Execs accused of exporting bio-agent producing device to S. Korea

TOKYO – Three Japanese company executives arrested on suspicion of illegally exporting to China spray dryers capable of producing biological agents that could be used in weapons are also suspected of exporting to South Korea without obtaining prior approval from trade authorities, police said Thursday.


Yokohama-based machinery maker Ohkawara Kakohki Co., Japan’s largest maker of spray dryers, has filled orders made by overseas firms, according to the police and other sources.


The company, founded in 1980, has exported its devices to Asia, Europe and the United States, according to its website.


Spray dryers, which are used to produce medical and food products, can atomize liquids into mists and then turn them into a powder. The devices are included in the list of items restricted for export under Japanese law.


When shipping sophisticated equipment that can potentially be diverted to military use overseas, approval must first be sought from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.


The Tokyo police’s Public Security Bureau, which suspects the company’s 70-year-old president Masaaki Okawara and others exported the equipment on a regular basis without approval, are analyzing seized documents to look for corroborative evidence, investigative sources said.


The bureau sent Okawara and the company’s adviser Shizuo Aishima, 71, as well as Junji Shimada, 66, one of its directors, to prosecutors on Thursday.


“We do not recognize that the exported equipment in question is one restricted by the foreign exchange act and that it violates the act,” the company said in a statement the same day.


The three executives were arrested Wednesday for allegedly selling and shipping a spray dryer to a German chemical firm’s unit in Shanghai in 2016.


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