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The vice minister of economy, trade and industry said Monday that METI will punish two officials who allegedly obtained unlisted shares from a Hong Kong firm and earned dividends on them.

“Although we have not yet completed our probe into the case, their actions are completely inappropriate and regrettable,” Seiji Murata told a news conference.

As soon as it finishes its investigation, METI will discipline the two officials regardless of their motives, Murata said, adding that he hopes to make public their punishment.

Murata said METI has already questioned the two officials. He declined to elaborate, however, stating that the investigation is under way.

The Japan External Trade Organization, a body affiliated with METI, said Saturday that a former executive vice president and four employees in Hong Kong, including two dispatched by METI, obtained unlisted shares from Techno Centre Ltd.

It said the four employees received about 500,000 yen in dividends from the company between 2000 and 2003. The organization had yet to examine whether the then executive vice president, who still works for JETRO as a temporary employee, had received stock dividends.

The company runs an industrial park in Shenzhen, China, primarily targeting Japanese firms.

JETRO said it does not consider the matter as one of insider trading or bribery because the five who obtained shares in Techno Centre did not have any jurisdictional relationship with the firm and have not sold the shares.

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