• Crime & Courts

Japanese man on Interpol list for ¥390 mil. in ‘romance scams’ held in Ghana

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Osaka prefectural police headquarters

OSAKA — A Japanese man on Interpol’s wanted list, suspected of having played a key role in scams swindling 65 people out of ¥390 million, has been apprehended in Ghana, according to investigative sources.

The so-called international romance scams that Hikaru Morikawa, 58, allegedly hatched involved the use of social media to pretend to be a woman working abroad, then luring people through romantic enticements to give money, the sources said.

Courtesy of the Osaka prefectural police
Hikaru Morikawa

The Osaka prefectural police, which had Morikawa placed on Interpol’s international wanted list in August 2021 and made his mug shot available this May, believe he is the ringleader of a Ghana-based international group of scammers.

In one case in August 2019, according to police, Morikawa used social media to pose as a Japanese female doctor working in Yemen and made contact with a man in his 60s who started to become intimate with the fictitious woman. Morikawa is then suspected of having swindled a total of ¥1.15 million from the man after telling him, “I need shipping fees to send you a package.”

Morikawa is believed to have been in Ghana since August 2018. His passport expired in February this year when the Foreign Ministry issued an order for him to surrender his passport. Since that time, he had been staying in Ghana illegally and then taken into custody by local authorities.

So far, the prefectural police have tracked down 15 people over the romance scams, including Japanese and Ghanaian nationals who allegedly played roles in transferring funds to the group of scammers.