Same Group Allegedly Involved in Crimes across 14 Prefs in Japan

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The National Police Agency

The suspected planner of a string of robberies in Japan, who self-identifies as “Luffy,” has been detained at an Immigration Bureau facility in a Manila suburb, Philippines’ Justice Secretary Jesus Remulla told The Yomiuri Shimbun on Friday.

Aside from Luffy, another man who is considered to be a member of the same criminal group has also been detained at the facility.

It is thought that Luffy or another self-dubbed individual, “Kimu,” sent perpetrators instructions from the Philippines via the Telegram communication app.

Thefts and robberies suspected to have been carried out by the same group have been reported in 14 prefectures since last year, according to the National Police Agency.

Crimes with a similar modus operandi had already been reported in Tokyo, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures, but have now also been reported in Gunma, Okayama, Fukuoka, Kyoto, Shiga and Osaka prefectures.

The NPA held a joint meeting Friday with the 14 prefectural police departments to share information and strengthen cooperation.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, NPA Commissioner General Yasuhiro Tsuyuki said: “We must arrest the ringleaders. We’ll cooperate closely to investigate the cases quickly.”

According to investigative sources, the recent crimes all involved perpetrators who responded to social media postings recruiting people for a “high-paying job,” namely breaking into homes and stores, tying people up and robbing them of money and goods.

According to the NPA, a group including Luffy is suspected to have been involved in 14 robberies that occurred in the eight initially reported prefectures since last October.

The relevant prefectural police departments have so far arrested more than three dozen people in their teens to 30s and are investigating how they might be involved in the crimes. The same group is also suspected of involvement in robberies and thefts in the six other prefectures, based on similar operational methods.

Two men arrested over a robbery resulting in bodily injury in Inagi, Tokyo, are suspected of involvement in a similar robbery in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward and an attempted robbery and murder in Hiroshima on Dec. 21. A different suspect in the Nakano incident was associated with a rental car believed to have been used as a getaway vehicle in a robbery-homicide in Komae, Tokyo, on Jan. 19.