THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
January 30, 2023 at 19:13 JST
Reports that a suspected criminal ringleader was incarcerated in the Philippines when he gave instructions for burglaries in Japan may have baffled people following the news about the violent crimes.
But a source from the immigration detention center in Manila, where “Luffy” is still being held in a fraud investigation, explained how easy it would have been for a wealthy inmate.
“You can live a comfortable life in the ‘VIP room’ and use a mobile phone (in the detention center) if you bribe (officials),” the source said in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun.
The Philippines is expected to repatriate Yuki Watanabe, the man whom Japanese police believe used the name “Luffy.”
He has been connected to a series of robberies that have occurred in the Kanto region and other areas in Japan.
The detention center where he has been detained is located on the vast police department premises in a suburban part of the Philippine capital.
It holds foreigners who are expected to be deported to face prosecution for crimes or other reasons.
According to the source, the center has two detention facilities, one for males and one for females.
It collectively holds between 50 and 100 inmates, including those from other Asian countries and Europe.
Photos of items banned at the center, such as explosives, drugs and alcohol, are displayed at its entrance.
Possessing or using communication devices, including mobile phones, are banned among inmates at the center.
Detainees typically stay in rooms equipped with bunk beds for multiple people.
However, the source said, “Rich detainees can live comfortably here.”
For a weekly “contract fee,” detainees can stay in a VIP room, which are individual cells furnished with a personal toilet, air conditioner and shower, according to the source.
“Around five or six” detainees stay in the VIP rooms, the source said, adding that bribes to guards can lead to extra perks, including delivery-ordered meals and even beer.
The detention center has its own “mini-economy,” the source said.
Detainees can sell one cigarette for 50 pesos (around 120 yen, or $0.90), while others can earn money by providing massages for rich inmates, the source said.
On how Watanabe could have contacted people in Japan, the source said some detainees pay money to use the mobile phones of center officials, who also have WiFi access at the center.
The Philippines has detained four Japanese, including Watanabe, on suspicion of leading a fraud group that targeted elderly people in Japan.
Using a base in the Philippines and other sites, the group is believed to have called their targets in Japan to steal their bank cards.
The three other suspects are Kiyoto Imamura, 38, Toshiya Fujita, 38, and Tomonobu Kojima, 45, according to investigative sources.
Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department intends to ask the Philippines to repatriate all four Japanese suspects together.
Tokyo police also believe Watanabe is connected to another person in the Southeast Asian country who helped to organize the robberies in Japan.
New information has emerged that someone in the Philippines using the name “Kim Young-jun” provided robbers in Japan with the address of a house in Komae, western Tokyo, according to investigative sources.
The address was sent through the Telegram communication app, the sources said.
Shortly thereafter, the house in Komae was ransacked on Jan. 19, and 90-year-old resident Kinuyo Oshio was found murdered inside, the sources said.
Police said on Jan. 30 that three luxury watches and a diamond ring, worth around 600,000 yen in total, were taken from the house.
The address was sent to mobile phones confiscated from suspects arrested in a burglary-assault case that occurred in December in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward.
Suspects of another robbery in Inagi, western Tokyo, in October have told police that both “Kim” and “Luffy” provided instructions regarding that crime, the sources said.
Police also found the name “Kim” when analyzing data of their mobile phones.
Investigators quoted one of the suspects as saying that Kim “casually said ‘you can kill someone when you do a robbery.’”
The phone numbers of both “Kim” and “Luffy” included “63,” the country code for the Philippines.
(Toshiya Obu in Manila contributed to this story.)
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