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Prosecutors arrested an employee of Nihon Keizai Shimbun Inc. on Tuesday afternoon on suspicion of insider trading, investigative sources said.

The arrest of Kazumasa Sasahara, 31, who works in the advertising section at the business newspaper’s Tokyo head office, followed the filing of a criminal complaint against him by the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office earlier in the day.

Sasahara admitted to having engaged in insider trading, the sources said.

It is believed to be the first time that an employee of a media organization has been arrested on insider trading allegations, they said.

“It was quite a malicious crime, in which an employee of a media organization . . . abused legal notices and deceived general investors,” an SESC official said.

The paper, widely known as the Nikkei, apologized to readers and investors for the incident but said it was the crime of an individual. Sasahara was fired later Tuesday after the board made the decision to let him go.

“We take gravely and seriously the fact that our employee in the advertising department has been arrested on suspicion of insider trading, and we deeply apologize to our readers, advertising clients, investors and the public for betraying their trust,” Nihon Keizai President Ryoki Sugita said.

Sasahara is suspected of profiting from stock trades using information he obtained on planned stock splits by five listed companies before legal notices on the splits were published in the paper, the sources said. Such action is in violation of the Securities and Exchange Law.

The SESC alleges that Sasahara invested 240 million yen to trade a total about 94,000 shares in the five companies prior to the five deals between Dec. 13 and Jan. 31, generating about 30 million yen in illicit profits.

Some of the shares were bought on margin and some transactions were reportedly made while he was at work.

It is the first time the security watchdog has filed a criminal accusation for insider trading involving multiple stock issues.

Information on legal notices is stored in a shared personal computer in the newspaper’s advertising section, which also manages the information.

In the normal course of his work, Sasahara did not have direct access to the legal information. He is believed to have stolen a password to get the information, the sources said.

He was questioned by the commission in February.

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