National

Ex-SoftBank employee arrested over alleged leak of proprietary information to Russian spies

Kyodo, JIJI

A former SoftBank Corp. employee was arrested Saturday for allegedly passing proprietary information from the major phone carrier to officials at Russia’s trade representative office in Tokyo.

The Metropolitan Police Department’s Public Safety Bureau said it suspects the Russian officials were engaging in espionage.

Yutaka Araki, 48, is suspected of illegally accessing a computer server at SoftBank on Feb. 18 last year and obtaining two sets of trade secrets with which he had been involved, the police said.

Araki could have provided numerous corporate secrets repeatedly to the Russian officials, according to the police.

Araki, a resident of Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, has admitted to stealing the information, according to the police, who quoted him as saying he did it to earn a “little extra money.”

According to investigative sources, Araki received hundreds of thousands of yen for providing the information kept in data storage devices to the Russian side.

Through the Foreign Ministry, the police requested that the Russian Embassy present two Russian men — one in his 50s and the other in his 40s — who returned to Russia in 2017, for questioning through organizations including the Foreign Ministry.

The police believe a Russian official who used to work in Tokyo first contacted Araki before passing on his connection to the official currently working at the trade mission, who has diplomatic status.

One of the Russian officials, who is a diplomat, is suspected of having abetted Araki to get the information. The other, who may also have been involved in the case, returned to Russia in around spring 2017, according to the police.

SoftBank, a unit of SoftBank Group Corp., said the information was related to manuals for mobile phone base stations and other communications facilities, adding that it fired Araki in mid-December.

The embassy put out a statement on its Facebook page saying that Russia “regrets Japan has joined anti-Russian speculation trendy in the West on the hackneyed topic of spy mania.”

It said the spy allegation contradicts the policy agreed on by Moscow and Tokyo to create a positive atmosphere for bilateral cooperation and resolve difficult issues between the two countries, the embassy said.

The police searched the company and Araki’s house last month for evidence of his involvement in the leak.

In a statement, SoftBank offered a deep apology and added that he stole “task documentation” that was “low in confidentiality” and which did not include information on customers or business partners.

The Tokyo-based company said it has been fully cooperating with the investigation.

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