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The business records of more than 400 clients of major commercial moneylender Nichiei Co. have been copied and stolen from four of the company’s six offices in Hokkaido, Nichiei officials said Wednesday.

The Kyoto-based company said it has reported the matter to police and intends to file a criminal complaint on suspicion of theft. The company has not named a suspect.

The stolen information, which covered 457 clients, includes company names and transaction records with Nichiei during the period spanning January 1999 to June this year, the officials said.

The company has been investigating the matter since receiving a report July 5 from a Sapporo publisher that copies of the lists had been leaked.

Norio Chihara, chief of Nichiei’s public relations section, said the company regrets the leak and offers sincere apologies to its clients.

The lists are usually placed on an accountant’s desk during business hours and locked in a library at the end of the day, with the branch manager taking the key home.

Officials suspect the lists were copied by a staff member during working hours and will begin questioning the 179 people who have worked at the four branches during the period in question, he added.

They will accelerate the pace of transferal of such information to computers to prevent a recurrence, Chihara said.

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