South Korean police arrested a chemical products distribution trio that allegedly sold the military fake specialty lubricants thought to have caused multiple equipment malfunctions.
Authorities indicted three employees of a defense supply contractor for purveying 34 types of tractor and motorcycle oils – counterfeited as United States-sourced specialty oils – to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration from April 2014 to June 2016 for a profit of around 1.5 billion won (U.S.$1.3 million).
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A series of emergency landings by Korean Air Force and Navy planes, helicopters and vessels, resulting from engine trouble and other malfunctions, sparked an investigation that uncovered the fraud. Local news reports said the affected vehicles included a light aircraft used for training and a Westland Lynx helicopter. Some disruptions attributed to the fake lubricants include a fuselage-rattling incident; cracking of a cylinder head; and the melting of a propulsion controllers electronic circuit board.
They used a scheme to send low-quality lubricants to the U.S. and reimport them into Korea, police officer Yim Juhong explained to Lube Report Asia last week. In the process, they faked labels, test documents and other certificates.
They took advantage of loopholes in the military supply procedure, police said in a May 25 statement. The specialty lubricants, procured and stored in America, would be shipped to Korea without strict examinations except for verifications on quantity and packaging.
The counterfeiters were also accused of supplying 23 billion won worth of cheap hydraulic oil disguised as American turbine oils to a thermal power plant.
The issue of counterfeiting is not uncommon in Korea. According to a National Assembly report, a parliamentary inspection last Octoberfound that government-owned Korean Railroad Corp. had used substandard and/or counterfeit lubricants and greases faked as Swiss products in its high-speed train system for at least 4 years.