Tokyo -- Tokyo police on Tuesday arrested a member of the AUM Shinrikyo religious cult on suspicion of stealing banking data from a Mizuho Financial Group transaction-management computer system, the police said.
Tetsuro Isobe, 27, is suspected of copying the confidential transaction information, which was under the care of major software development company NTT Communications Corp., to the hard disk of his personal computer from November 2000 to April this year while he was doing work as a contract employee.
Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) investigators found the hard disk in April at an AUM facility in Tokyo's Arakawa Ward, the police said.
Isobe had been a contract worker at another software development firm in the capital's Minato Ward that was a subcontractor for NTT Communications since November last year.
He worked in an NTT Communications building. The company entrusted development, management and settlement of accounts operations for Mizuho to the software development firm.
A spokesman for Mizuho Holdings Inc., the holding firm for Mizuo Financial Group, said customer data and other information regarding products and services were not stolen and customers were not affected.
The spokesman said the firm has taken the utmost efforts to protect its computer data.
Isobe is in charge of AUM's computer software development, according to the police.
NTT Communications is the long-distance and international call arm of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (NTT). Mizuho Financial consists of Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, Fuji Bank and the Industrial Bank of Japan.
The MPD believes Isobe may have stolen confidential computer system management data from other major companies and is likely to question him further.
The Tokyo police arrested Isobe on suspicion of breach of trust and searched an AUM facility in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward and four other locations for evidence to back up the allegations.
An NTT Communications spokesman stressed the company does not believe Isobe's acts affected it as the stolen data were not really confidential. The company has not filed a criminal complaint with the police, the spokesman added.
The police also said another AUM member was working at NTT Data Corp., another NTT subsidiary, and was involved in the development of an accounting system for central government departments that was ordered by the Finance Ministry.
The cultist is also believed to have been involved in the creation of a Web page for a private university in Tokyo, but information theft has not been confirmed in these cases, the police said.
Last year, a group of AUM-related firms were found to have received contracts to develop computer systems for government departments and major firms including the Defense Agency and the MPD itself.
AUM founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is on trial for a number of crimes, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, in which 12 people were killed and thousands injured.