The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (Riken) has denied any organized involvement in the alleged 1998-1999 industrial espionage in which U.S. prosecutors accused an institute member of stealing genetic materials from an Ohio laboratory.

The government-funded Riken said in a statement released Tuesday, “Although some evidence suggested the material was transported to the institute, there is no truth that Riken intended this or actually used the material for research.”

Institute member Takashi Okamoto and Hiroaki Serizawa, an assistant professor of molecular biology at the University of Kansas, were indicted in May on charges of stealing genetic materials developed by the federally funded Cleveland Clinic.

Riken Executive Director Tomoya Ogawa told a news conference Tuesday, “We must admit his behavior suggested something suspicious, although we hope defendant Okamoto is innocent.”

Riken also submitted a report detailing its in-house investigation to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

The same report, minus the names of people interrogated by Riken, was also submitted to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the institute said.

It claims Okamoto’s subordinate took the materials that were sent from him to the institution in late August 1999 but later lost them.

The subordinate initially applied to Riken for approval of an experiment using the materials but later breached procedure in changing his plans and did not use the materials, the report says.

The report says Okamoto first denied any materials were transported but later changed his story and has not given any response in interviews with Riken inspectors.

The institute said it could not find evidence suggesting Okamoto destroyed the materials in question after learning of the charges filed against him and Serizawa by U.S. authorities.

Ogawa said Okamoto tendered his resignation in early July, and Riken accepted it Tuesday.

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