Aum Shinri-kyo and Related Controversies

"AUM issues statement apologizing for Tokyo subway gassing"

(Kyodo News Service, March 19, 2000)

TOKYO, March 19 (Kyodo) - The AUM Shinrikyo cult issued a statement Sunday apologizing for the 1995 Tokyo subway gassing and promising to continue compensation payments.
The doomsday cult issued the statement a day before the fifth anniversary of the sarin gas attack, which left 12 people dead and injured more than 5,500.
Tatsuko Muraoka, 50, head of the cult in place of jailed guru Shoko Asahara, and spokesman Hiroshi Araki jointly issued the statement.
The cult said it will mail a letter Monday to a group of lawyers representing the families of the victims of the March 20, 1995 attack and survivors.
Last December, AUM acknowledged its culpability in the gas attack for the first time, apologizing to victims and announcing its intention to compensate them.

"Japan safety myth tattered 5 years after cult attack"

by Linda Sieg (Reuters, March 19, 2000)

TOKYO, March 19 (Reuters) - The Japanese public lost something precious five years ago -- the belief that indiscriminate violence can't happen here.
Monday will mark the fifth anniversary of the gas attack on Tokyo's subway system by a doomsday cult that left 12 dead and the national psyche shaken. In those subsequent five years, a rising crime rate and a rash of violence have boosted anxiety in a land where personal safety was once taken for granted.
``No one believes in the myth of safety anymore,'' said Kazuhiko Tokoro, a sociologist at Rikkyo University in Tokyo.
Japan's crime levels are still low by global standards and the streets of Tokyo are relatively safe -- and free of firearms.
But while some advanced nations such as Britain and the United States are seeing crime rates fall, the opposite is true in Japan.


Crimes of violence -- bizarre as well as tragic -- have grabbed headlines in recent years, stoking public fear.
Many of the incidents involve children or teenagers, either as victims, perpetrators, or both.
Just last December, a seven year-old boy was murdered in his schoolyard by a young man who dashed in and stabbed him with a kitchen knife while the boy's mother was talking to his teacher.
The month before, a housewife strangled a two-year-old girl, put her body in a bag and travelled by train to her parents' home where she buried the child's body in the back yard.
And in September, a 35-year-old knife-wielding man went on a rampage at a train station, killing three and injuring 12 others in the second incident of its kind that month.
In one of the most chilling episodes in recent years, a teenage boy who said he heard spirit voices beheaded a small boy in 1997 in the western city of Kobe. He also murdered a little girl with a hammer and assaulted three other schoolgirls before he was finally arrested.


Violent crimes such as murder, robbery, assault and rape are still rare compared with the United States in particular. Strict laws that keep firearms out of public hands mean that knives, or in some cases swords, are the weapon of choice.
Comparisons are tricky, but a British Home Office study shows that murders occurred at a rate of 1.10 per 100,000 people in Japan in 1998. The rate was 1.19 in Germany, 1.43 in England and Wales -- and 6.26 in the United States.
Residents of London were twice as likely to be murdered as their Tokyo counterparts in 1998, while those living in Washington were nearly 50 times more at risk, the British Home Office data showed.
But Japan's crime rates are definitely climbing.
The number of crimes rose 14 percent in Japan between 1994 and 1998, while the United States saw an 11 percent fall and England and Wales had a 13 percent decline.
The same troubling trend applies to violent crimes, which continued to grow in number last year.
The changes are clearly making the public jittery.
``Are people more anxious than they used to be? Yes, because they read about such crime in the newspapers and sometimes they even know someone who has been a victim,'' said Sahoko Kaji, an economist at Tokyo's Keio University.
As signs of the angst, parents are more serious about patrolling local streets in the late afternoon, after-school care centres send kids home before dark in the winter and neighbourhoods are marking shops and homes with posters telling children they can seek help there if threatened by a stranger.


Experts are scurrying to explain the trends.
Among the oft-mentioned culprits are increasing alienation in urban areas, working mothers, prolonged economic stagnation and a rising unemployment rate, and a highly competitive education system.
Even the nation's falling birth rate has been cited as a factor in juvenile crime, on the assumption that single children tend to be spoilt by their doting parents.
Some experts fear that the emergence of a bigger gap between rich and poor in a society which for decades prized its middle-class stability will spark even more violent crime.
``Looking at other countries, that is the direction in which it is going,'' Keio University's Kaji said. ``Crime may not increase..but I don't think it will go down. Every sector in Japanese society is being challenged by the new situation of a bad economy, higher unemployment and higher crime. Ordinary people are not ready for this.''.

"Doomsday cult still casts shadow over Japan"

by Elaine Lies (Reuters, Marc 19, 2000)

TOKYO, March 19 (Reuters) - Five years ago on Monday, members of a doomsday cult poisoned thousands of commuters on Tokyo subway trains with nerve gas, an attack that still casts a long shadow over Japan.
Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth) has lost much of the strength it had on March 20, 1995, when its sarin gas attack killed 12 and injured thousands, but its tentacles still extend through much of Japanese society despite repeated official crackdowns.
Just two weeks ago, there was a stunned reaction to news that computer software developed by cult-linked companies was installed in several government ministries, including the Defence Agency, and several major private firms.
Then came revelations that the group also wrote software for the police, which had enabled cult members to obtain secret data on police patrol cars.
Different software allowed them access to a manufacturing firm's data on the repairs and inspections of several nuclear power plants. The affected organisations shut down their compromised systems and said no great harm had been done, but the reports fanned worries about where Aum might surface next.
A poll by the daily Yomiuri Shimbun of nearly 2,000 people earlier this month showed that 81 percent of respondents still harboured worries about Aum.
``People are afraid,'' said Takanori Akiyama, a social psychology commentator. ``After all, cults these days have the ability to conceal themselves in modern life, so they are much harder to spot.
``By the time you really see them, it's often too late. Something has happened.''


Other bizarre cults are also grabbing headlines.
Last November, police found in a hotel the mummified body of the 66-year-old follower of a cult called ``Life Space.'' His family claimed he was still alive and was being treated for a brain haemorrhage by getting pats on the head from guru Koji Takahashi, who was later arrested and charged with murder.
Police raids on cult buildings found children crammed in an apartment, apparently kept from school and fed once a day.
Another cult, Ho-no-Hana Sampogyo, was raided in December on suspicion of swindling several women who had been told they would die young or suffer from cancer if they failed to heed the group's advice. It is alleged to have charged huge fees to diagnose followers' illnesses by examining their feet.
Precise figures on cult membership are impossible to come by given the legal dangers of so labelling any particular group, but experts say the numbers appear to be growing.
Their popularity stems largely from the uncertainty of life in the 1990s, when long-term social norms such as lifetime employment began falling by the wayside due to an economic slump.
``What with the poor economy and corporate restructuring, what had been the Japanese model for happiness fell apart,'' said Osamu Watanabe, social psychology professor at Tokyo's Hitotsubashi University. ``People began looking for a new society and new source of happiness, and they found it in the cults.''


Aum, Japan's most notorious cult, seems to have a special ability to transform itself as needed in order to survive.
Stripped of its assets in 1996 when it was liquidated by court order and with many of its leaders jailed, it moved into the computer business to fund itself.
At its peak, it had six computer shops in various parts of Japan, selling computers made by affiliated companies and earning some six billion yen ($56.66 million) annually.
Then early this year, the cult gave itself a makeover just before the government put it under surveillance in line with a strict new law.
Pledging to shed its sinful past, the cult also promised to compensate victims of the gas attack and changed its name to ``Aleph,'' taken from the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
Cult guru Shoko Asahara, on trial for his alleged role in the cult's crimes, preached that the world was coming to an end and the cult had to arm itself to prepare for various calamities.
``Aum does appear to have lost its destructive side, but it will continue to survive as a cult for some time,'' said Hitotsubashi's Watanabe. ``All the cults, in fact, will remain quite active until society as a whole becomes more stable.''.

"AUM kids keeping lawyers busy"

by Yasuyo Nakamoto ("Mainichi Shimbun", March 19, 2000)

TOKIGAWA, Saitama - Problems related to the entry into elementary school here of twin daughters of a former high-ranking member of the AUM Shinrikyo doomsday cult have highlighted legal weaknesses lawmakers probably never imagined.
Despite widespread public opposition, Tokigawa Municipal Government officials this year reluctantly backtracked on an earlier decision to forbid the six-year-old twins to enter schools within the municipality.
But Tokigawa's change of heart came only after it appeared as authorities higher up wouldn't back it's refusal. Village authorities and local residents have made it clear they're not happy to have the cult kids at schools in their municipality.
Although the powers that drew up the nation's laws were clear when it came to requiring parents to ensure their children attended school, they never envisaged problems such as those being experienced in Tokigawa, where residents are opposed to the presence of a particular child in local schools.
In September last year, Tokigawa Municipal Assembly members unanimously decided that they would refuse to allow AUM children to attend schools in their village. There was no discussion of the children's rights to an education and they appear to have made its decision based on a similar vote passed by another Saitama Prefecture municipality around the same time.
After those who support the kids sued the town to get the courts to force it to rescind its decision, lawyers urged Tokigawa officials to decide exactly where they stood on the issue of letting the girls into their schools. Prompted by instructions from prefectural and national education officials to come up with a way that the girls, whose mother is in prison, could attend classes, village officials finally decided that their aversion to legal battles was too strong and they would let the children go to school without the need to pursue a court case.
Tokigawa residents, though, were outraged. They vehemently opposed allowing the AUM children to study with their own offspring. As a compromise, village officials suggested sending out a teacher to instruct the AUM children - a proposition vetoed by both the cult and local residents.
Residents say one of their reasons for their opposition to the cult's kids is because the children have gone out of their way to avoid contact with other people living in the village. Residents say that when they want to talk with the cult, the kids' side told them their lawyers are in Tokyo and the residents should head to the capital.
The girls' aunt, their legal guardian, says she realizes that relations with Tokigawa residents got off to a bad start and wants to try and build better ties but people don't want to know her. Many residents say they don't believe the girls, their father and aunt when they say they're no longer members of the cult.
Other municipalities are coping with similar problems trying to provide AUM children with their right to an education in the face of vehement opposition from residents. One municipality in Tochigi Prefecture is discussing with the cult its proposal to teach cult children in classrooms separated from other pupils.
Chiba Prefecture's Kisarazu can even boast of a success story. An AUM child it permitted to attend schools within its bounds - provided she underwent counseling and AUM members stayed clear of the school - attended classes normally for two terms before moving. Children apparently treated the child the same as any other kid.

"70 sarin attack victims get free medical checkups"

(Kyodo News Service, March 18, 2000)

TOKYO, March 18 (Kyodo) - Some 70 victims of the 1995 sarin gassing of Tokyo's subways perpetrated by the AUM Shinrikyo cult received free medical checkups Saturday under the sponsorship of a private group.
The Foundation for the Victims of Sarin Gas Attacks has organized a free medical service to help alleviate the mental and physical suffering of victims of the attack.
The free checkups are being offered Saturday and Sunday at the ward office in Tokyo's Adachi Ward and will be available March 25-26 in Koshigaya, Saitama Prefecture, just north of Tokyo.
Lawyer Saburo Abe, AUM's bankruptcy administrator, heads the foundation.
The medical team is composed of 35 doctors from hospitals such as St. Luke's International Hospital and Keio University Hospital.
''In reality, holding such medical checkups should be the responsibility of the government. The victims long suffer from aftereffects and fall into relapses, but the country's system of helping and giving benefits to the victims of crime is very temporary,'' Hidemichi Morosawa, a member of the group, said.
The cult released sarin gas on the five Tokyo subway lines on March 20, 1995, killing 12 people and injuring more than 5,500.
Last December, AUM admitted its culpability in the gas attack for the first time, apologizing to victims and announcing its intention to compensate them.

"Death cult they can't kill haunts a nation"

by Michael Millett ("Sidney Morning Herald", March 17, 2000)

The venom is unmistakable. "Death penalty, death penalty," Yoshimi Kitamura hisses, her tortured frame twisting in the wheelchair.
The reaction, frightening in its intensity, is in response to the name Shoko Asahara, the bearded guru behind one of modern Japan's most infamous inventions, the Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) cult.
Asahara is almost universally reviled for his role in masterminding Aum's murderous crime rampage in the mid-1990s in pursuit of a bizarre Armageddon philosophy.
But few have as much reason to hate Asahara as Yoshimi does.
The 36-year-old supermarket worker was a victim of the sarin gas attack staged by the guru's acolytes in the Tokyo subway system five years ago.
Chance placed her within metres of one of the punctured plastic bags containing the deadly nerve gas that Aum terrorists placed on her crowded Marunouchi-line train during the Monday morning peak hour.
Unlike most of her fellow passengers, Yoshimi was not a regular commuter.
She had volunteered for a training session for new employees - a task that required leaving her outer-suburban workplace to travel into the city centre.
That one change in routine was to have disastrous consequences.
While Yoshimi has no memory of the incident, police later told her brother, Takeshita, that she must have been sitting virtually on top of the seeping fumes.
Isopropyl methyl phosphonfluoridate, or sarin as it is more commonly known, is a nerve gas invented by the Nazis.
It is regarded as one of the most toxic substances known to science. A tiny drop can cause devastating damage to anyone inhaling its evaporating mist. It is also a perfect terrorist weapon - odourless, colourless and relatively cheap to manufacture.
Aum's "hit squad" of five men placed 11 bags of sarin solution on five subway lines converging on Kasumigaseki station, the bureaucratic heart of Tokyo.
Twelve people were killed and more than 5,500 injured in the ensuing macabre drama. The subway system coughed up a seemingly endless line of victims. Soldiers clad in chemical warfare gear clambered through stalled trains in search of a deadly, unknown enemy.
Yoshimi bore the full brunt of the sarin assault on the body's nervous system. She was found comatose at a station kilometres away from her intended exit on the Marunouchi line. So heavily drenched with sarin were her clothes and body that a person who tried to resuscitate her also collapsed.
Doctors told Takeshita she could die within days.
She didn't, but the gas left her with dreadful injuries. She needs permanent hospital treatment. She has only limited body movement. Her vision is seriously impaired. Her voice is a rasping cry.
In 90 minutes of contact, that one word, "shikei" (death penalty), is all she can wrench from her body.
Yoshimi's agony is indicative of the enormous damage wrought on Japan by the gas attack that was Aum's final, insane assault on the establishment forces it believed were plotting its destruction.
For her, and many others who breathed the toxic fumes, there is enduring physical pain and lingering emotional trauma.
Despite its horrific crimes, Aum Shinrikyo remains intact, sustained by the funds flowing from a number of business ventures operated by its members.
Goaded into action late last year by community groups alarmed at Aum's resurgence, the Obuchi administration enacted punitive laws aimed at hounding it out of existence.
But it refuses to die, tormenting its oppressors as well as its victims. Only last week, the Government admitted, shamefaced, that Aum computer companies had won contracts to supply software for secret police and defence operations. Aum's cheap labour costs and computer dexterity have also seen it win tenders for several big corporations and academic institutions.
The ease with which Aum is still able to penetrate Japan's administrative system makes Yoshimi's venom understandable. The demand for shikei is driven as much by fear as revenge.
The names are pseudonyms. Takeshita crouches beside his sister and cradles her neck as they sit in a dark hospital lobby late at night. He says he is so scared of Aum reprisals that he refuses to disclose identities.
They are not the only ones enduring the nightmare.
A National Police Agency survey last year found that many of the subway injured are still suffering mental and physical trauma.
Seventy-seven per cent of the 1,247 who responded to the agency's queries had chronic sight problems. More than half suffered recurring flashbacks of the horror or feared a repeat.
A widespread belief that authorities are moving too slowly in delivering justice and compensation to the victims is compounding the misery.
The Mainichi newspaper conducted its own limited poll this week among members of the Subway Sarin Case Victims' Group and found that more than 70 per cent believed attempts to deal with their financial and physical problems had been inadequate.
In contrast to the families affected by the Kobe earthquake two months earlier, the sarin victims were not given any lump-sum compensation by the Government. They were forced to fall back on company and private health insurance and on an uncertain court process to extract compensation from the cult.
While Aum claims its coffers have been exhausted in meeting the demands for compensation, the victims say the tortuous court process and the amount of time given to the cult to bury its assets have meant that little of the money has ended up in their hands.
In a civil case that concluded only last week, the Tokyo District Court ordered senior cult members to pay 668 million yen ($10 million) in compensation. But the chief lawyer for the plaintiffs, Mr Kenji Utsunomiya, said he did not think the bankrupt Aum could pay anything like that.
"This matter has not finished, not by a long shot," Takeshita said. "[My sister] is not the only victim. Too many families have lost very precious time because of this awful thing." The victims' group wants the Government to make ex gratia payments to families who lost members in the attack or have suffered hardship in caring for those injured.
A spokeswoman, Ms Shizue Takahashi, whose subway attendant husband died after trying to clear the deadly gas from Kasumigaseki station, said: "The investigative authorities should have done more. There was ample evidence before the attack that Aum could do something terrible." THE calls have so far gone unheeded in Tokyo's political headquarters, Nagatacho.
"What Aum tried to do was attack the state of Japan. The state hasn't done anything to help us," Takeshita said.
Even if Aum were to cough up, he would prefer government help. "I don't want money from the enemy, I want clean money," he snapped.
He is also angry that Japan's court system has taken so long to deliver its judgment. Five years after the event, Asahara is still fighting 17 counts of murder and attempted murder, plus kidnapping and drug trafficking.
Few believe he will walk out of jail alive.
Aum followers have been found complicit in 16 of the 17 crimes with which Asahara has been charged, including an earlier sarin gas attack in the small country town of Matsumoto. In all of the cases, the courts have acknowledged that the crimes were carried out under his direction.
But Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, fights on. The long-winded nature of Japanese court proceedings means it could be another five to 10 years before a verdict is delivered.
Experts offer a range of explanations for the stubborn appeal of Aum and similarly weird outfits.
Japan's education system, with its emphasis on group order and discipline at the expense of independent thinking, is cited as a culprit.
Many argue that the dismantling of state-based Shintoism after World War II has left Japan without a spiritual core.
A lecturer in sociology at Shizuoka University, Dr Kimiaki Nishida, said Japan's disaffected youth had become easy prey for slick recruiting tactics, such as Aum's use of rock concerts and animated videos. The young have also disconnected from mainstream media, so they do not regard the cult as a threat.
Dr Nobutaka Inoue, an expert in religious studies at Kokugakuin University, pointed to other factors: a move by young Japanese from established religions and their increasing interest in the occult, doomsday and death.
"For the generation that has grown up since the 1970s, things like psychic powers and the occult are nothing special. Those running the Aum Shinrikyo cult apparently realised that quite well," Dr Inoue said.
While this may explain how Aum was able to build its membership to more than 10,000, it does nothing to justify the callous crimes committed under Asahara's name.
Takeshita's response is one of bewilderment. "I don't claim to be religious myself, but surely those who are members of what is supposed to be a religious organisation have a responsibility to do what is right, to demonstrate common sense," he said.
Even now, he feels that Asahara is triumphing over the system.
"He is guaranteed food and shelter. But what happens to my sister if I am killed in a car accident tomorrow?"

"AUM gas attack victims choking five years on"

("Mainichi Shimbun", March 17, 2000)

Five years after the AUM Shinrikyo-initiated sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system, one in six victims say that they suffer continually deteriorating aftereffects of trauma and shock, according to a recent Mainichi survey.
The poll was conducted in February with the help of a group of sarin gas attack victims. Of the 130 people who were contacted, 62 responded.
Asked about the aftereffects of the March 20, 1995, gassing, which killed 12 people and sickened more than 5,500, 10 respondents said their symptoms have worsened.
"One year after the fact, my eyesight became worse and I realized that my ability to remember had been retarded as well. I can't even recall the names of my business clients although I'm in fairly constant contact with them," said a man in his 50s who was exposed to sarin on a Marunouchi Line train.
Eighteen others said their conditions neither improved nor deteriorated, while 14 said they had improved.
A woman in her 20s says she is unable to work now even though her condition has improved. "I am not able to go to my favorite places due to mental problems attributed to post traumatic stress syndrome. I want people to know about how humiliating my life as a recluse has become," she said.
Two-thirds of respondents said they felt uneasy about their health as a result of the exposure.
Only two people said they were satisfied with the government's handling of the cult, despite a set of laws initiated to compensate the victims of AUM's terrorist attacks and to crack down on the cult.

"Japan Gas Victims Battle Effects"

(Associated Press, March 16, 2000)

TOKYO (AP) - Many victims of the 1995 Tokyo subway gassing continue to have health problems five years later, according to a newspaper survey published Thursday.
The survey of victims, conducted last month by the Mainichi newspaper, said two-thirds of those who responded still feel ill effects from the attack. It also said more than 70 percent of the respondents believe the government has not done enough to monitor their health or help them financially.
Twelve people were killed and thousands injured in the March 20, 1995 sarin gas attack. Japanese courts have found several leaders of a doomsday cult called the Aum Shinri Kyo, or Supreme Truth, guilty in the gassing. The murder trial of the group's former guru, Shoko Asahara, is still ongoing in a Tokyo court.
Many victims of the attack still complain of poor vision, chronic headaches and psychological problems, the survey said.
Of the 62 respondents, 10 said their health has worsened, 18 see no major improvement and 12 others still have health concerns. Fourteen said their health has improved.
The cult has been under government surveillance and has been declared bankrupt. But it is believed to be raking in hidden profits from a computer software business.
The Japanese government toughened its laws late last year to allow the authorities to seize the cult's assets more easily and monitor the cult more closely. But only two of the Mainichi survey respondents said they were satisfied with such government measures. Almost all respondents also complained that Asahara's trial is moving too slowly.

"AUM to disband affiliated computer companies"

(Kyodo News Service, March 14, 2000)

YOKOHAMA, March 14 (Kyodo) - The AUM Shinrikyo cult will disband its affiliated computer software companies once they complete business orders, officials of the group said Tuesday.
AUM spokesman Hiroshi Araki and senior member Fumihiro Joyu told a news conference at the cult's Yokohama branch that the companies will be shut down between the end of March and April.
The move follows recent revelations that the companies provided computer systems to numerous government ministries and major companies, including the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
According to Joyu and Araki, the companies are not currently developing any systems for government clients. The cult will instruct members working as software developers to refrain from taking orders from clients until the public shows more understanding toward AUM, they added.
To date, the MPD has revealed that up to five AUM companies have provided about 160 systems to 140 clients, including government ministries, universities, major companies, local banks, news media and the MPD.
The MPD inadvertently bought a vehicle-management system from the cult, but replaced it after the AUM link was discovered. The system managed all police vehicles, including senior officials' cars and unmarked police cars.
The Public Security Division has said it suspects AUM tried to steal data from ministries and major companies, and that the computer firms were an important source of funds for the cult.
Regarding the MPD system, however, Joyu and other AUM officials emphasized they had no intention of obtaining illicit MPD data and broke no laws when the system was developed.
AUM is accused of causing the deaths of 12 people and injuring more than 5,000 in a nerve-gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995. It owns at least five computer companies, which employ about 40 members as software developers, according to security sources. The cult renamed itself Aleph in January.

"Moscow court rules on damages for AUM victims"

(Kyodo News Service, March 13, 2000)

MOSCOW, March 13 (Kyodo) - Moscow's Ostankino district court ordered the AUM Shinrikyo cult's Russian branch Monday to pay a total of 2,435,600 roubles (about 9.02 million yen) in damages to the victims of the cult, Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reported.
The money, already deposited at the court, will be allocated through a Russian civic group, called the Committee for Salvage of Youth from Destructive Cults, which is acting as claimant in the damages action, the report said.
The money came from selling the cult's building on Moscow's Zvyozdny Boulevard, the report said.
The Russian Prosecutor General's Office recognized 26 citizens of Russia and some other former Soviet republics as victims of the cult.
The victims include former cult members who were judged to be in need of psychological rehabilitation, families who lost their breadwinners to AUM, people who committed suicide after joining it and people who donated property to the cult.
The Russian branch of the cult was banned by the Ostankino court April 18, 1995. However, the cult remains active in Russia, setting up a center on the outskirts of Moscow, according to the report.

"AUM leaks shake up MPD"

("Mainichi Shimbun", March 12, 2000)

Revelations that confidential data held by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) was leaked to an AUM Shinrikyo cult-related company have illustrated the MPD's lax information secuirity.
The information leaked to Vainqueur Ltd., which was developing a computer system for the police, may have included the confidential license numbers of unmarked police cars.
Besides the MPD, Vainqueur and another AUM-affiliated computer software company provided computer systems to at least 160 entities, including Sumitomo Bank, Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co., Kyodo News and Hosei University as well as government ministries and agencies, police sources said.
The MPD discovered the leakage in February 1998 but failed to disclose the incident "because it didn't cause any damage to the force."
However, a high-ranking official of the National Police Agency warned that police forces across the nation should step up their efforts to prevent their confidential information from leaking to outside bodies.
"Overseas spy organizations may employ a similar method to gather confidential information from government ministries and agencies as well as major companies. It was a shame that the MPD was targeted, but lessons should be learned from the case."
The Tokyo police force made a contract with IBM Japan, Ltd. to develop software to manage vehicles in October 1997 for 11.37 million yen, the MPD's information management division said.
IBM Japan subcontracted several companies to do the work and one of them in turn farmed out work to Vainqueur. Vainqueur got about 2 million yen from the contract.
The MPD discovered the company linked to AUM, now known as Aleph, was involved in the project in February 1998, about a month before the system was completed. However, only a limited number of senior officials were informed at the time.
IBM replaced part of the system developed by Vainqueur and supplied the software in around June of that year, a few months after the original deadline.
Subsequently, the MPD was forced to get rid of some vehicles and change the license plates on others out of fear that data, including license numbers and types of vehicles, may have leaked to the cult.
The MPD said AUM obtained a list of some 100 contractors for a major manufacturing company, also unnamed, through Vainqueur.
The MPD confiscated the lists during a raid it conducted on Feb. 29 on eight AUM-related facilities in connection with a case in which an AUM member was accused of renting an office for the cult under a false name.
The MPD's Public Security Division has said it suspects AUM tried to steal data from ministries and major companies, and that the computer companies were an important source of funds for the cult.     

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