Japanese Suspect Had 6 iPhones in Detention at Philippines Immigration Facility

Sho Komine / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Philippine Justice Secretary Jesus Remulla speaks about the planned extradition of Japanese detainees at the Justice Department in Manila on Tuesday.

MANILA — One of the four Japanese men suspected of involvement in a string of robberies across Japan had six iPhones at a Philippine detention center, Philippine Justice Minister Jesus Remulla said on Tuesday.

Philippine authorities intend to start the extradition of the four men in the first half of next week at the earliest.

According to a senior Metropolitan Police Department official, the four suspects held in the facility are Yuki Watanabe, 38; Kiyoto Imamura, 38; Toshiya Fujita, 38, and Tomonobu Kojima, 45. They are all believed to senior members of a fraud group uncovered in the Philippines in November 2019.

The MPD has issued arrest warrants for them on suspicion of theft and other charges stretching from 2019 to 2021.

Suspicions have emerged that criminals calling themselves “Luffy” or “Kim” issued instructions from the Philippines to the perpetators of robberies in Japan mainly via the communications app Telegram, according to investigative sources.

Watanabe has previously used the name Luffy.

Courtesy of Philippine National Bureau of Investigation
Yuki Watanabe

At a press conference on Tuesday, Remulla said iPhones and other devices belonging to the four men had been confiscated, and that it was highly likely a criminal organization had been operating in the facility. On the same day, Philippine immigration authorities searched the Bicutan detention center in a suburb of Manila where the four are being held.

The Philippine side is aiming to extradite the four suspects before Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s visit to Japan, which has been arranged for Feb. 8. Remulla indicated that extradition procedures for two of the four men are likely to be completed this week. However, the Japanese government is seeking to extradite all four at once, which may take some time to arrange.

The three suspects other than Imamura are on trial for assaults on women and children and other charges, according to a senior Philippine Justice Department official. In the Philippines, defendants currently being tried over criminal charges cannot be deported.

However, if it is confirmed that charges were fabricated to avoid deportation, prosecution is dismissed to make extradition possible.

Hearings for the three suspects are scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

6th arrest over Nakano robbery

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department on Wednesday arrested Ken Maeshiro, 31, on suspicion of involvement in the theft of about ¥30 million in Nakano Ward, Tokyo, in December.

This is the sixth arrest related to the Nakano incident, which also resulted in injuries to a resident of the targeted home. Maeshiro is a self-employed man who resided in Sendai.

The MPD is investigating the possible planning of the Nakano robbery by a figure going by the name of “Luffy.”

According to investigators, Maeshiro was arrested last month on suspicion of selling stolen items related to a robbery in Inagi, Tokyo, in October.