TOKYO (TR) – Renowned entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert William Hiroyuki Saito has resigned from his post as special adviser to the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Trade (METI) and issued an apology after questions were raised about his background.
In an email to The Tokyo Reporter on Wednesday, the public relations department of METI confirmed that Saito tendered his resignation on December 15. It has also become clear that he resigned from the same role at the Cabinet Office for the Government of Japan.
Known as a expert in cybersecurity, Saito founded founded I/O Software in California as a teenager in 1988. He later started the venture capital and technology consultancy InTecur after moving to Japan from the U.S. in 2005.
Saito became a special adviser to the government regarding cybersecurity in 2013. He is currently an executive officer for Japan Airlines Co. in digital innovation promotion.
His resignation comes amid questions about his background, which were first raised by writer Ichiro Yamamoto via an entry on his blog on Yahoo.co.jp on December 9. In that post, Yamamoto questioned whether Saito is a actually an expert in cybersecurity.
In a subsequent post six days later, Yamamoto said that it is “highly unlikely” that Saito actually graduated from the UCLA School of Medicine, as the entrepreneur has claimed on multiple occasions, including in the Japan Times earlier this year.
When reached for comment, Saito wrote in an email that the reason for the termination of the posts with the government was procedural, saying that “a one year term ended with the successful completion of the Cyber3 conference a few weeks before.”
Saito also confirmed that he is no longer an adviser to the Cabinet Office for the same reason. “As you may know, this was started with the first Cyber3 conference in Okinawa,” he added.
However, the Cyber3 Conference in Okinawa was held in 2015, two years after his appointments began with the government. As well, a general information page on his personal web site that included his claim regarding graduation from the UCLA School of Medicine has been taken down.
When asked for clarification regarding the timing of the government appointments and his education, Saito did not immediately respond.
An apology for “any concern or inconvenience”
On Friday, Saito issued an apology for “any concern or inconvenience” he may have caused via a tweet that included a link to his blog. The entry indicated that he began attending a biomedical sciences program at the University of California, Riverside that has an affiliation with UCLA in 1988. He added, however, that he did not graduate from the UCLA School of Medicine.
In the same entry, Saito also refuted Yamamoto’s doubts regarding his cybersecurity credentials, citing his extended experience internationally and in Japan, including his three-year chairmanship for the Cyber 3 Conference, an event that drew cybersecurity figures from industry and government.
The Sankei Shimbun (Dec. 21) cited a METI source as saying on Thursday that Saito resigned from both government posts due to “personal reasons.”