Japanese crime ring masterminded from Thailand and Philippines

'Kim' and 'Luffy' give Tokyo cops the runaround

A Japanese crime ring operated from Thailand and the Philippines is behind a string of crimes across Japan.

The international crime syndicate was coordinated remotely from Thailand. The crimes being investigated include the murder of a 90 year old woman as well as cash-card fraud involving a number of elderly victims.

Yuki Watanabe, 38 years old, and another senior member of the Japanese crime ring, Tomonobu Kojima, 45 years old, were sent to Japanese prosecutors on Friday after they were deported to Japan from the Philippines.

Among the robberies being investigated is one that resulted in the murder of a 90 year old woman in Tokyo in January.

Watanabe, whose immigration record shows he was in Thailand in 2017, allegedly collaborated with a partner in Japan between August and December of that year to obtain cash cards from people, including the elderly, by claiming someone had withdrawn money from their bank accounts.

In December 2017, a group of people were stopped by police when they tried to leave Japan for Thailand carrying concealed cash of about 36 million yen (US$275,000, 9 million baht). The money was believed to have been obtained using cash cards.

Watanabe later moved his base to the Philippines but was detained in April 2021. He and Kojima were deported to Japan on Thursday at the request of the Japanese authorities and arrested the same day for alleged theft related to a scam.

Two other members of the fraud group, Kiyoto Imamura and Toshiya Fujita, both 38 years old, were repatriated from the Philippines and arrested on Tuesday also for alleged theft.

The group is estimated to have defrauded people of over 6 billion yen (US$50 million, 1.5 billion baht) before appearing to switch to robberies.

The four suspects returned to Japan include the person, or persons thought to have used the pseudonyms “Luffy” and “Kim” when the crimes were committed. A criminal group led by a figure using the name Luffy is suspected of involvement in a recent robbery and murder.

Five men were arrested on suspicion of robbery resulting in injury in a case in which about 30 million yen (US$250,000, 7.5 million baht) in cash was taken from a house in Tokyo, on December 5. This case is believed to be connected with a series of robberies in the Kanto region and elsewhere perpetrated by the same Japanese crime ring.

Kinuyo Oshio, 90 years old, was found dead in the basement of a house with her hands tied, in a robbery-homicide that occurred on January 19. Footprints at the scene indicated there were four perpetrators, but suspects have not been identified.

Police analysed phone data and found that a person using the name Kim had sent a message with the address of Oshio’s house using Telegram, an app that can automatically delete messages. Kim’s message is believed to have remained undeleted because it was unread.

Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department is investigating whether the Oshio case is linked to four Japanese men currently detained in the Philippines.

Along with Luffy, Kim also had given instructions to the perpetrators of another robbery in which about 35 million yen in cash and gold bullion was stolen in October. Seven suspects have been arrested and the names of Luffy and Kim were found on some of the suspects’ Telegram accounts.

According to Japan News, The MPD believes that Kim and Luffy are either associates or the same person. Investigators are looking into the Komae case, as they suspect the same Japanese crime ring was also involved in this incident.

Phone calls from Luffy and Kim originated in the Philippines, giving rise to the possibility that the four men detained by Philippines immigration authorities, including Yuki Watanabe and Kiyoto Imamura, may have been involved in these robberies.

The men are allegedly senior members of a special fraud group, whose 36 Japanese nationals were caught in suburban Manila in November 2019. The MPD has obtained arrest warrants for the four on theft and other charges.

Watanabe has previously gone by the name Luffy.

Japanese crime ring masterminded from Thailand and Philippines | News by Thaiger


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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.