A former SoftBank Corp. employee arrested on suspicion of illegally obtaining trade secrets of the major Japanese mobile phone carrier was repeatedly wined and dined by a male diplomat stationed at the office of Russia’s trade representative in Japan, it was learned Sunday.
The former employee, Yutaka Araki, 48, has said in questioning by the Public Security Bureau of Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department that he had thought the man in question may have been a spy from Russia, investigative sources said.
The bureau suspects that the Russian diplomat enticed Araki to leak information after developing close relations with him.
Araki was arrested Saturday by Tokyo police on suspicion of obtaining information from a computer server at SoftBank on Feb. 18 last year, in violation of Japan’s unfair competition prevention law.
The police believe he provided confidential corporate information from SoftBank on multiple occasions to two officials at Russia’s trade representative in Tokyo, in exchange for hundreds of thousands of yen, and that the two were engaging in espionage activities.
“I had thought that they might be spies,” one of the sources quoted Araki, who was fired by SoftBank in mid-December, as saying.
Araki was first approached several years ago by the Russian official, who is in his 40s, and is believed to have been treated to hospitality in addition to receiving cash from him, the sources said.
The official, who returned to Russia in 2017, and his successor, who also had diplomatic status and is in his 50s, had specifically requested the information they wanted from him, the sources said.
The officials are believed to be members of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service.
The unit of SoftBank Group Corp. said Saturday the information stolen was related to manuals for mobile phone base stations and other communications facilities.
The officials did not disclose to Araki, a former executive at the company’s mobile information technology promotion department, that they were from Russia’s trade mission, the sources said.
The method of approaching him “accidentally on purpose” is a typical technique used by Russian spies, they said.
Through Japan’s Foreign Ministry, the police have requested that the Russian Embassy present the two officials for questioning.
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