• Kyodo

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Washington will ask Tokyo to extradite Takashi Okamoto, a researcher at a Japanese government-backed laboratory who has been charged with economic espionage, a federal attorney said Thursday.

The Justice and State departments will request Okamoto’s arrest and extradition through diplomatic channels, William Edwards, first assistant U.S. attorney in Cleveland, told Kyodo News.

A federal prosecutor said Wednesday a grand jury in Ohio has charged Okamoto, 40, and his alleged accomplice, Hiroaki Serizawa, 39, with stealing genetic material on Alzheimer’s disease and sending them to Japan’s Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (Riken).

Serizawa, of Kansas City, Kan., and Okamoto, a former researcher at the Cleveland Clinic, were charged with violating the Economic Espionage Act, transporting stolen property across state lines and making false statements to FBI agents, an indictment said.

Edwards said Okamoto is the main suspect in the case.

Meanwhile in Tokyo, Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama told reporters Friday she has not been informed about the U.S. request.

Serizawa, bailed on a $20,000 bond Thursday, is expected to appear before a federal district court near Cleveland for arraignment in the week starting May 21, Edwards said.

The Plain Dealer, an Ohio newspaper, reported Thursday that FBI agents in Kansas City arrested Serizawa on Wednesday while he was on his way to work at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, where he is an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology.

The paper quoted Okamoto’s attorney, Brent Gurney, as saying, “The government has a fundamental misunderstanding of the facts in this case.

“The evidence would not establish that Dr. Okamoto has in any way committed any crime,” Gurney, a former assistant U.S. attorney, reportedly said.

Jean Paul Bradshaw, a lawyer representing Serizawa, also denied the allegation.

“We obviously have a different view of the facts,” Bradshaw told Kyodo News.

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