Continued investigation needed to expose hidden aspects of case

Why was the president of Ohsho Food Service Corp. murdered nine years ago? Did someone instruct the alleged perpetrator to commit the crime? The investigation must continue to unravel the still-hidden aspects of the case.

The Kyoto District Public Prosecutors Office has indicted Yukio Tanaka on murder and other charges in the December 2013 fatal shooting of the president of Ohsho Food Service, which operates the Gyoza no Ohsho restaurant chain. Tanaka is a senior member of a gang affiliated with the government-designated dangerous crime syndicate Kudo-kai.

Tanaka allegedly shot Takayuki Ohigashi, then president of the company, four times in the chest and belly early in the morning in the parking lot of the headquarters of Ohsho in Kyoto City.

The shooting of the president, committed in a place where employees and others come and go, sent shock waves through society. It was an outrageous act of violence against an ordinary citizen and must not be tolerated.

Tanaka had been on the investigation’s radar from an early stage. A cigarette butt was found near the crime scene, and DNA on it matched that of the defendant. However, the investigation ran into difficulty because it was not possible to determine when he had smoked the cigarette.

Analysis of the cigarette butt under a new method showed the likelihood that it was extinguished on the road near the crime scene on the day of the shooting when the surface was wet with rain. Analysis of security camera recordings from around Ohigashi’s residence also revealed that a person with features similar to those of Tanaka was seen in footage.

It can be said that improvements in analytical techniques that have accompanied scientific advances led to the arrest and indictment of the suspect.

However, it will not be easy to unravel the full extent of the case in the trial. The connection between the defendant and the victim has not been clarified, and there is no evidence providing direct proof of the attack, such as witnesses or a murder weapon. The defendant has remained silent.

The police believe that he had accomplices. It is suspected that more than one person was involved in procuring the getaway motorbike, suggesting that detailed plans were made.

In the past, Ohsho is said to have conducted inappropriate real estate transactions worth more than ¥20 billion with an outside business group. Prior to the incident, Ohigashi reportedly had been working to undo the transactions.

The police must continue their investigation in parallel with the trial to determine whether the series of such events is related to the case.

The focus will also be on whether the Kudo-kai was behind the attack. However, investigations into organized crime perpetrated by gangs and other groups tend to be difficult because it is difficult to obtain statements from members involved in the case.

In a 2021 ruling, the Fukuoka District Court recognized that the head of the Kudo-kai gave the commands for four cases involving attacks on civilians in Fukuoka Prefecture, based on witness interviews with a total of 91 people, including former Kudo-kai members.

The police need to refer to such a method to conduct more interviews with the people involved and clarify the organizational nature of the crime.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 24, 2022)