updated 1/23/2006 8:55:09 AM ET 2006-01-23T13:55:09

Japanese police on Monday raided the headquarters of Yamaha Motor Co. on suspicion the company illegally exported to China remote-control helicopters that can be diverted to military use, officials said.

The action follows a complaint filed by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry urging authorities to launch criminal investigation into the motorcycle and engine producer over the allegation, according to a ministry statement.

The company is suspected of violating trade laws by selling the helicopters to China without obtaining trade ministry approval, the ministry said.

The helicopter is designated as a restricted material for export because of its capability to be diverted to military purposes and a violator could face up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 2 million yen ($17,400) the ministry said.

Public broadcaster NHK showed footage of officials entering the Yamaha headquarters in Iwata City in Shizuoka prefecture, southwest of Tokyo.

"It was extremely regrettable that equipment that could be diverted to weapons of mass destruction had been allegedly exported to China," Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said. "I hope investigation would reveal the whole truth."

Prefectural police refused to confirm the report.

Yamaha executive Toyoo Otsubo confirmed the raid and said, "We face criminal complaints by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and a police raid over the case. We are fully cooperating in the investigation."

He did not provide other details, adding that the company was not aware of any illegal activities.

Yamaha allegedly sold an unspecified number of helicopters for pesticides sprinkling, which can be diverted to military uses such as spreading chemical weapons or spying, the Asahi newspaper reported.

Kyodo News agency said police believe Yamaha last exported one such helicopter to China in December without a trade ministry approval, following similar exports about 10 times.

Yamaha also had exported nine of the aircraft, RMAX 181, to a Chinese aerial video company, Kyodo said.

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