Japan Arrests Five on Charges of Exporting Missile Equipment to Iran

Japanese police arrested five people Thursday on charges of exporting equipment to Iran (search) that could be used in the production of missiles.

The five are employees of a Tokyo-based manufacturer, Seishin Enterprise Co. (search), and include its 68-year-old president, a Tokyo Metropolitan Police official said on condition of anonymity.

The company allegedly sold two industrial grinders to Iran in 1999 and 2000 without an export license, the spokesman said.

Police say exporting the grinders, which can be used in making solid fuel for rockets, is restricted under international guidelines established by the Missile Technology Control Regime (search). The pact was signed by Japan, the United States and other countries to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The five also are suspected of conspiring to violate Japan's Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, the police official said.

A company official denied Seishin had broken any laws but declined to comment further or give his name. The firm operates six factories in Japan and employs about 250 people.

Japanese media reported earlier this year that the company was suspected of illegally exporting grinders to North Korea in 1994 but escaped prosecution because the five-year statute of limitations on the case had expired. The police official declined to comment on those reports.