Güney Kore'de Skandal: Thales Çalışanı Tutuklandı

Fransız savunma devi Thales'in Güney Kore temsilciliğinde çalışan bir yetkili, Güney Kore'nin yeni savaş gemileri ile ilgili gizli bilgileri çalmak suçlamasıyla dün tutuklandı. Eğer Thales çalışanının suçu sabit görülürse 15 yıla kadar hapis cezasına çarptırılması söz konusu.

İddiaya göre adı açıklanmayan ancak soyadı "Park" olan Thales çalışanı, bir Koreli savunma yetkilisinden, Güney Kore'nin yeni savaş gemileri için tedarik edeceği radarlarla ilgili gizli proje bilgilerini talep etmiş. Soyadı "Lee" olan bu Koreli savunma yetkilisinin sağladığı bilgiler karşılığında "Park", şirketinden 80 milyon won ($500,000) almış.

South Korea indicts French executive
By Choe Sang-Hun International Herald Tribune


SEOUL The head of the South Korean office of Thales, the French military electronics maker, was indicted Tuesday on charges of illegally gathering classified data on the next-generation warships of the South Korean Navy, prosecutors said.

The Thales official was arrested Saturday, said Kim Hoon, a senior prosecutor in Daejeon, 160 kilometers, or 100 miles, south of Seoul. A South Korean arms broker and a researcher at the government-run Agency for Defense Development were arrested and indicted on charges of leaking the data to the Thales official.

Prosecutors refused to reveal the name of the Thales official. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison under South Korean law.

Markus Leutert, a spokesman at Thales's headquarters in suburban Paris, said the employee "did not steal any documents."

"He is accused only of gaining access to these documents, which he obtained in good faith," Leutert said, adding that Thales had done business with the South Korean military for more than 30 years.

The company said it was "surprised by and regrets the decision" in South Korea.

Kim said the arrests should send alarms to the country's military procurement officers. This is the first case in which South Korean military secrets appear to have been funneled to a foreign arms dealer through government researchers, the prosecutor said.

Under President Roh Moo Hyun, South Korea is modernizing its military to reduce its dependence on U.S. forces, and looking beyond the United States for weapons. Thales is competing with the U.S. military contractors Boeing and Raytheon to supply radar and other military hardware to South Korea.

The Thales official was charged with asking the South Korean arms broker, a former vice director at the Agency for Defense Development, in early January to gather details on radar equipment the navy plans to buy for its next generation of convoy ships, Kim said.

Thales, which is partly state-owned, produces military radar, missile-guidance systems and sonar for warships.

The broker, identified only by his last name, Park, got the data from an agency researcher, identified by his last name, Lee, and passed it to the Thales official, who paid the broker at least 480 million won, or $500,000, Kim said.

Separately, Park once asked for €1 million, or $1.2 million, from Thales when the French company won a contract in the South Korean military's 2004 project to build more copies of its Chunma short-range, ground-to-air missile system. Park did not receive the money, Kim said.

"The data he received was sent all the way to the Thales headquarters," Kim said. "Although the information was not leaked to an enemy state, the fact that it was leaked means that the data cannot be controlled by us and can pose a grave threat to our defense programs."

The act Thales is accused of also threatens fair competition in the bid for the radar project, which has yet to be formally announced, Kim said.

During interrogation, the Thales official denied any criminal intent, "but we have enough strong evidence to support our indictment in court," Kim said.

Thales said it has been fully cooperating with the investigation, and reminded South Korea of its "proactive policy of technology transfers to the benefit of Korea."

"Thales believes that positive outcome to this incident will be reached and that its good faith will be recognized in this case," the company said.

South Korea has been increasing spending on its military since Roh pledged in 2003 to make the country able to defend itself independently within a decade.

He wants to reduce troop levels to 500,000 from the current 680,000 and introduce advanced weapons, including the country's first early warning aircraft.

South Korea's defense budget this year is 23 trillion won, a 12 percent increase from last year. About one-third of it is meant for modernizing weapons. Until now, South Korea has bought - and still buys - most of its military weapons from the United States, which keeps 32,000 troops here.

Thales said this month it had added a provision of up to €80 million to its 2005 earnings report for a dispute with Taiwan over its 1991 purchase of French frigates, which has been clouded by charges of political maneuvering and graft.


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