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10:52 AM, November 26, 2017
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Chinese Student in Japan Ships Classified US-made Night Vision Device to Hong Kong
FLIR Star Safire III Camera: FIle Photo

The Japanese Police has accused a Chinese exchange student of illegally exporting an infrared night-vision camera to a firm in Hong Kong which he purchased from an on-line auction site.

The Tokyo-based exchange student, 22, purchased the US-made FLIR Star Safire III camera on an internet auction site. The camera had been removed from a Japanese government helicopter and put up for sale, the Mainichi Daily reported Saturday.

The police has alleged that the student purchased the device for 550,000 yen (about $4,900), and sold it to a firm in China for about 2.5 million yen ($22,400), and shipped via Hong Kong without any of the required Japanese government permits.

"I used the money for living costs and academic fees," the man was quoted as telling police. However, when asked who he sold the camera to, the student reportedly said, "I don't remember." Investigators also believe that he sent photos of the camera and its product number to the Chinese company.

Police suspect that the camera was purchased by a firm that handles military equipment for the Chinese market, and then resold within China. The Japanese police suspects it may have been purchased by the People's Liberation Army or some other military-related organization.

Initially, the night-vision camera was attached to a transport ministry helicopter imported from the U.S. in 2006. In September 2015, the ministry apparently contracted Mitsubishi Electric to replace the camera and dispose of the old one.

After the older camera was removed, a subcontractor sold it to another entity. The camera was apparently resold several times by different vendors before being put up on the auction site.

The Star Safire III camera is manufactured by Oregon-based thermal imaging equipment firm FLIR Systems Inc. It was used in U.S. military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq and can capture images within a range of about 3 kilometers, as well as make out buildings and terrain at night.

A new one costs at least 50 million yen (about $448,000), and apparently no Star Safire III camera has ever been exported from the US to China.

Given that the camera can be used for military purposes, it is necessary to obtain a U.S. trading license to import or export it based on International Traffic in Arms Regulations. In addition, the Star Safire III is on a list of devices under the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act that require an export permit issued by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry.

However, there is no law regulating sales of the camera if putting one up for auction.

Upon discovering that the camera had been placed on an auction site, in June the transport ministry issued a two-week ban on Mitsubishi Electric bidding on government contracts. Meanwhile, the MPD has sent papers on the subcontractor on suspicion of falsely reporting to Mitsubishi Electric that it had disposed of the camera.

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