Philippines expels 2 Japanese suspects in high-profile robbery case

Basilio Sepe and Jeoffrey Maitem
Manila and Davao, Philippines
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Philippines expels 2 Japanese suspects in high-profile robbery case Philippine Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla speaks to reporters in Manila, Feb. 7, 2023.
[Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]

Updated at 2:39 p.m. ET on 2023-02-07

The Philippines on Tuesday deported two of four Japanese men who allegedly led a violent criminal gang that defrauded victims in their home country of some 6 billion yen (U.S. $45.6 million). 

The arrest and deportation, which Manila called “a huge win” for the government, came on the eve of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s scheduled official visit to Tokyo.

The suspects, Fujita Toshiya, 38, who was captured in Manila on Feb. 21, 2021, and Imamura Kiyoto, 38, who was arrested in December 2019, were sent home for violating the terms and conditions of their visas by being fugitives, as well as being a risk to the public, officials said. 

“[W]e will not rest until these international criminals are sent back and banned from our country,” Philippine Immigration chief Norman Tansingco said on Tuesday

Two other suspected Japanese accomplices who have been arrested and will likely be deported are Watanabe Yuki, believed to be called “Luffy” and who is likely the gang leader and Saito Tomonobu, Tansingco said.

The four are also connected to a spate of violent robberies that have occurred around Japan, including the killing of an elderly woman who was beaten in western Tokyo, he added.

“While the identity of ‘Luffy’ is not yet confirmed, we are working with the Department of Justice and the Japanese authorities to be able to expedite the deportation to give more clarity to this case,” Tansingco said.

The suspects allegedly posed as police officers or officials of the Financial Services Agency in Japan, officials said. They telephoned their targets with warnings that their financial accounts were in danger, and that they should prepare their bank cards for an inspection. Other members of the gang would then visit the victims’ homes and steal those bank cards.

“Regarding the telephones that were seized by the Bureau of Immigration, we are turning over 24 telephones and other accessories,” Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla told reporters.

“This is the first time actually that the secretary of justice has stepped in in this kind of proceeding and has exposed the way that several lawyers have been frustrating the ends of justice. This was never done before. It is due to the courts,” he said.

On Wednesday, President Marcos is due to leave for Japan where he is expected to sign seven bilateral agreements, including on infrastructure, agriculture, information technology, and defense.

“Ahead of the president's visit to Japan, we at the department, together with the Bureau of Immigration and the National Bureau of Investigation, hope that this will not only strengthen the ties between the Philippines and Japanese government, we hope that this shows the sincerity and genuine effort to curb any illicit or illegal maneuvers meant to erode the credibility of our justice system,” Remulla told reporters, according to Agence France-Presse.

Earlier, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Neal Imperial said the official visit, scheduled from Feb. 8-12, is expected to reaffirm the strong relations between the two countries.

“It also seeks to maximize the full potential of Philippine-Japan strategic partnership in all its aspects and facilitate closer defense, security, political, economic, and people to people ties,” Imperial said.


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