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Yamaha Motor says 3 employees arrested on helicopter exports

Yamaha Motor Corp., the world's second-largest motorcycle maker, said three of its employees were arrested for allegedly exporting remote-controlled helicopters illegally.

„We are deeply sorry for causing troubles and concerns to our customers, business partners and shareholders,” President Takashi Kajikawa said in a release today. „All we can do now is to monitor developments in the investigation.” Police are investigating whether Yamaha's sale of the RMAX 181 helicopters to China violated export laws. Japan bans the unapproved export of remote-controlled aircraft that can carry more than 20 liters of liquid or aerosol for spraying, according to Japan's trade ministry. Yamaha, based in Iwata City, southwest of Tokyo, has sold nine helicopters to Beijing BVE Technology Co., a film company, since 2002, the company said in January 2006. The Beijing-based company used them to shoot footage for commercials and television drama, according to Yamaha. At the time, Kajikawa said the helicopters were for civilian use and the company didn't violate any law. Another shipment was held in Nagoya when police probed the company in January last year. The choppers, which cost ¥16 million ($132,000) apiece, are sold mainly to farmers in Japan for spraying pesticides. The helicopters only have a range of 200 meters (656 feet) from the person who is controlling it and are therefore unlikely to be used to carry weapons of mass destruction, the company said last year. The employees would be fined up to ¥80 million or imprisoned for as long as five years, if proven guilty, according to the government. The company may be also punished. Yamaha sold about 300 remote-controlled helicopters in 2005 worth about ¥3 billion. That's less than 1% of Yamaha's annual sales of ¥1.38 trillion in 2005. About 95% of its helicopter sales were in Japan two years ago. The company stopped selling helicopters overseas after the allegation. Shares of Yamaha rose 1.9% to ¥3,760 at the 3 p.m. close on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. (Bloomberg)