Japan cultist nabbed for stealing bank information

Reuters/November 20, 2001

Tokyo -- Japanese police said on Tuesday they have arrested a member of doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo on suspicions of stealing confidential information from a major Japanese bank.

Police believe that Tetsuro Isobe, a member of the cult accused of a 1995 subway nerve-gas attack in which 12 people died and thousands were hurt, stole information on a transaction data management system used by an unspecified city bank in Tokyo.

Isobe, a 27-year-old computer engineer, was suspected of having copied the information onto the hard disk of his personal computer over a six-month period from last November, police said.

The motive of the theft was unknown.

Investigators said they found the disk at one of the cult's facilities in Tokyo.

Prompted by fears the cult was making a comeback, Japan's parliament passed strict surveillance laws against the group in December 1999.

Cult leader Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is on trial for murder, masterminding the 1995 gas attack and 16 other charges, including planning another nerve gas attack in 1994 in which seven people were killed and 144 injured.

In a bid to project a new image, Aum Shinrikyo changed its name to Aleph -- the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet -- in January 2000.

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