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SEOUL — Investigators have found no evidence that U.S. servicemembers were involved in the case of five South Koreans indicted for illegally selling American military equipment.

“Also, there were no records of lost U.S. military equipment from 8th Army units in Korea for any of the items mentioned in this investigation,” 8th Army spokesman Col. Andrew Mutter said.

Last fall, six Koreans were booked on suspicion of illegally selling items such as body armor, bayonets, helmets, laser target designators, rifle scopes, night-vision goggles and tents.

A Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency official said at the time that the suspects bought the equipment from U.S. soldiers and made tens of thousands of dollars by selling it at their shops in Seoul, Dongducheon and Bupyeong. Some of the gear found its way onto Internet sales sites, police said.

The investigation began after a South Korean civilian reported buying some of the prohibited military equipment in June.

The suspects were indicted last month on charges of buying stolen U.S. military equipment and reselling it.

“The stuff they were dealing were items which cannot be circulated,” the prosecutor’s office official said.

Mutter said previously safeguards ensure soldiers do not sell their equipment for profit.

“In accordance with Army policy, all Army units — company and below — must conduct periodic sensitive-items inventories,” he said. “This is done by a 100 percent, hands-on, serial-number inspection by an inventory officer, and the results are submitted for record to the unit’s property book office.

“Any discrepancies are immediately reported to the unit’s chain of command and appropriate actions are taken to address the discrepancies,” he said.

Mutter said Tuesday that Korean and U.S. military investigators determined that some of the equipment sold by the suspects is available from commercial vendors.

chang.kyong@stripes.com

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Yoo Kyong Chang is a reporter/translator covering the U.S. military from Camp Humphreys, South Korea. She graduated from Korea University and also studied at the University of Akron in Ohio.
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