Extradition of 2 Robbery Suspects Expected by Tuesday

Sho Komine / The Yomiuri Shimbun
A lawyer for the Japanese suspects speaks to the press outside a Manila courthouse on Thursday after a court hearing.

MANILA — Two of the four Japanese men suspected of involvement in a recent string of robberies in Japan, currently being held in a detention center near Manila, are expected to be handed over to Japanese authorities by Tuesday, while the remaining two await an upcoming court appearance that day in the Philippines.

Kiyoto Imamura, 38, and Toshiya Fujita, 38, will be extradited, while fellow suspects Yuki Watanabe, 38, and Tomonobu Kojima, 45, remain in the Philippines, the Philippines justice minister said after the latter two’s court appearance on Thursday.

The four were arrested for their roles in a fraud group that Philippine police cracked down on in 2019, and Tokyo police have obtained arrest warrants for them on theft charges from 2019 to 2021.

The Philippine government had announced Wednesday its intention to deport all of them to Japan at the same time by Tuesday. However, with the cases against Watanabe and Kojima still ongoing, they cannot be deported.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is scheduled to visit Japan on Feb. 8-12 to meet Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and other officials. The two countries had agreed that the four suspects should be extradited before Marcos’ visit to Japan, so the matter does not become a diplomatic issue.

Still, Imamura and Fujita are expected to be sent back prior to Marcos’ arrival.

The Philippine side had previously refused to extradite the four, saying they were involved in other trials in the Philippines. But this year, evidence emerged connecting them to the robberies in Japan, and the Japan side renewed its request for extradition.

For those on trial in the Philippines, if it is determined that charges against them were fabricated for the purpose of evading extradition, they will be dismissed.

A figure or figures calling themselves “Luffy” or “Kim” are suspected of issuing instructions from the Philippines to the perpetrators in the series of robberies in Japan, after being recruited via posts for “dark” part-time jobs on social media.