Japanese ‘Luffy’ Group Suspect Denies Involvement in Robbery Ring

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kiyoto Imamura arrives at Narita Airport on Tuesday afternoon, escorted by police.

MANILA — A man who was held in a Manila detention center along with three others over suspected involvement in a series of robberies in the Kanto region told his Philippines lawyer he had nothing to do with the crimes, it has been learned.

Kiyoto Imamura, 38, who has been arrested in connection with a special fraud case, was deported from the Philippines and landed in Japan on Tuesday along with Toshiya Fujita, 38, another robbery ring suspect.

According to a senior official of the Metropolitan Police Department, Imamura and Fujita were arrested on suspicion of theft in connection with a special fraud case that caused damage totaling about ¥6 billion yen across Japan around 2018 to 2020.

The MPD believes Imamura organized the “callers” who made fraudulent phone calls, while Fujita served as a “recruiter” to enlist perpetrators.

During an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun conducted in the Philippines, Imamura’s lawyer said his client denied involvement with any fraud or robbery when they spoke at the Bicutan detention center in a Manila suburb on Sunday. “Imamura seemed annoyed by all the allegations,” the lawyer said.

The two other suspects — Yuki Watanabe, 38, and Tomonobu Kojima, 45 — are expected to be handed over to the Japanese authorities on Wednesday evening local time and arrive in Japan on Thursday morning.

Watanabe is believed to be the “boss,” among the four suspects.

In the series of robberies, a person calling himself “Luffy” or other names allegedly issued instructions from the Philippines. The MPD intends to investigate the connection between this individual and the suspects.

Over 50 ‘dark’ cases

According to the police, more than 50 robbery cases in Tokyo and 13 prefectures carried out since summer 2021 had similarities to a series of recent crimes in which people were recruited through “dark” part-time job offers on social media. The National Police Agency found that more than 60 people were arrested in those 50-plus cases, and local police are now investigating the possible involvement of the Luffy group. According to the NPA, those crimes employed a similar modus operandi in that multiple perpetrators were recruited via social media, broke into homes and stores, tied people up and robbed them of money and goods.

The NPA had already confirmed a total of more than 30 such robbery cases in Tokyo and 13 prefectures. However, reinvestigations conducted by local police uncovered a number of other similar cases. More than 30 arrests have been made in 14 robbery cases that occurred in Tokyo and eight prefectures since last autumn. Combined with the other robbery cases, more than 60 people have now been arrested, the NPA said.

In those cases, police have confirmed that the person who issued instructions identified himself as either “Luffy,” “Kim” or “Mitsuhashi.”