Bushnell Corporation Pleads Guilty to
Illegally Exporting Night Vision Equipment
Washington, D.C. - United States Attorney Roscoe C. Howard, Jr.
and Department of Commerce Acting Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement
Lisa A. Prager announced that Worldwide Sports & Recreation, Inc.,
which does business as Bushnell Corporation, pleaded guilty today in U.S.
District Court for the District of Columbia to a two-count Information,
charging Conspiracy and a substantive violation of the International Emergency
Economic Powers Act. In pleading guilty, Bushnell admitted to exporting,
between September 1995 and December 1997, over 500 Night Ranger night
vision devices to Japan and 14 other countries, without the required Department
of Commerce export licenses. Under the plea agreement, Bushnell has agreed
to pay a criminal fine of $650,000 and receive 5 years of corporate probation.
In addition, the Department of Commerce, which administers and enforces
export controls through its Bureau of Industry and Security, has the authority
to impose civil penalties for such violations of the Export Administration
Regulations. Bushnell is scheduled to be sentenced on June 10, 2003, before
the Honorable Richard W. Roberts.
In announcing the guilty plea, United States Attorney Howard warned that
"distributors of equipment with potential military use must be vigilant
about compliance with export restrictions for the safety and protection
of our national interests. Willful blindness and deliberate ignorance
of the law is not an excuse when our national security is at issue."
Acting Assistant Secretary Prager added, "illegal exports such as these
raise a concern regarding the diversion of shipments to countries and
end-users that pose a direct threat to United States national security
interests. We will continue to work with the night vision industry - the
manufacturers, the domestic retailers, and the freight forwarders-to further
educate them on our enforcement concerns and the risks associated with
illegal exports of this equipment." The Night Rangers which Bushnell exported
are thermal imaging binoculars and monoculars. Night vision equipment
can be used against the United States interests, thereby diminishing our
potential technological advantage.
Under the Export Administration Regulations, optical sensors, such as
the Night Rangers, are controlled for national security, foreign policy,
military technology and nuclear non-proliferation reasons. There is an
exception for some optical sensors if the shipments are below $3,000,
but that exception does not apply to Night Rangers, which must always
be licensed regardless of what country the Night Ranger is being shipped
to and regardless of how many are being shipped.
According to the government's investigation, Bushnell was informed of
the comprehensive licensing requirement when it entered into a distributorship
agreement in 1994 by the manufacturer and its own lawyers. In 1996, Bushnell
received notification from the Department of Commerce, which stated that
the Night Ranger models it was selling, that is, Model 150 (a monocular)
and 250 (a binocular), required validated licenses for each individual
shipment to all countries (except Canada), and were not subject to the
General License Value exception for low-value shipments.
Bushnell began selling Night Ranger night vision equipment in 1995. Although
it obtained export licenses for five shipments of 11 Night Rangers that
it shipped directly overseas, it did not obtain export licenses for the
bulk of its international shipments which required export licenses, in
particular for shipments to Japan and for certain low-value shipments
to other countries.
With regard to the Japanese sales, Bushnell arranged to deliver Night
Rangers it had sold to a Japanese company in Japan to a "friend company"
in the U.S., which then exported the Night Rangers to Japan. There were
11 total shipments, totaling 471 Night Rangers, valued at over $300,000,
from Bushnell, exported for sale by the Japanese company in Japan, without
obtaining an export license for those exports from the Department of Commerce
in Washington, D.C. The dates and details of the transactions are stated
in the Information to which the defendant corporation is pleading guilty.
With regard to shipments made to other countries, a Bushnell mid-level
manager of the International Sales Department told her staff that low-value
shipments of Night Rangers under $3,000 could be shipped internationally
without an export license. Even after the Commodity Classification was
received and distributed to the International Sales Department, which
Classification explicitly stated that an export license was required for
all shipments and that no exception applied, Bushnell continued to ship
Night Rangers without an export license if the value of the shipment was
under $3,000, from July 19, 1996, to February 13, 1997. As set forth in
the Information, 15 of these shipments were made, totaling 37 Night Rangers,
valued at $33,290.
U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard, Jr. and Acting Assistant Secretary Prager
commended the work of Senior Special Agent David Poole and Senior Special
Agent Christopher Tafe as well as the U.S. Customs Service Office of Investigations-Boston.
They also praised Assistant United States Attorney Wendy Wysong