Philippine immigration authorities have detained the suspected operator of a pirated manga website that is believed to have caused billions of dollars in damage to the Japanese comic industry.

Romi Hoshino, 27, was taken into custody at an international airport in Manila on July 7, the authorities said July 9.

An immigration official said Hoshino was nabbed outside a departure terminal before he could board a flight to Hong Kong.

The Japanese government, through its embassy in Manila, has asked the Philippines for cooperation in the investigation into Hoshino, who is suspected of violating the Copyright Law.

He is believed to be the main operator of the Mangamura (Manga village) website, which allowed users to read illegally copied manga for free.

Fukuoka and other prefectural police plan to arrest Hoshino after he is sent to Japan. Police suspect others were also involved in the operation of the website.

The Mangamura site had long been a thorn in the side of Japanese publishers and groups representing comic artists. It carried popular Japanese manga without obtaining permission from the artists from January 2016 to April 2018, when it was shut down, according to Japanese government sources.

The estimated financial damage caused by Mangamura to the Japanese manga industry was about 320 billion yen ($3 billion), according to the Tokyo-based Content Overseas Distribution Association.

Entrusted by comic artists, major publisher Kodansha Ltd., also based in Tokyo, has filed criminal complaints with the Fukuoka and other prefectural police over suspected copyright infringements by Mangamura and its operators.

The artists include Hajime Isayama, author of popular manga “Attack on Titan,” which was published by Kodansha.

“We expect the entire picture of this case will be clarified,” Kodansha said in a statement issued on July 9.

(This article was compiled from reports by Akiko Suzuki and Amane Shimazaki.)