Thursday, 11 December 2014

Japan's biggest heist - The 300 million yen robbery, Tokyo 1968

On December 10, 1968 – Japan's biggest heist, the still-unsolved "300 million yen robbery", is carried out in Tokyo.

ON A rainy morning in December 1968, what seemed to be a police motor cycle screeched to a halt in front of a Tokoyo Bank car, just outside Japan's biggest prison.  The rider of the Yamaha motorbike wearing a police uniform, told the men there had been an explosion at a branch manager's
home. Indeed days earlier their own manager had received a bomb threat in the mail.

The four unarmed employees of the bank were delivering year-end bonuses and other monies, totaling 294,307,500 yen, to Toshiba's Fuchu factory in a quiet Tokyo suburb.

"We have been informed your car may be wired with dynamite," the policeman said as he crawled underneath the vehicle.  Seconds later plumes of smoke began billowing up and he screamed at them to flee. As the men ran for their lives, the motor cyclist calmly climbed behind the wheel and drove off with nearly 300 million yen, never to be seen again.

He left behind a smoke bomb on the road, and a stolen motor bike painted to look like a real police vehicle.

 December 10, 1968 police officers inspecting a motorcycle used in the 300 million yen robbery
This picture taken on December 10, 1968 shows police officers inspecting a motorcycle
The chief suspect was the 19-year-old son of a real local motorcycle policeman, but just five days after the robbery he was dead, having swallowed potassium cyanide.  Despite his being the leader of a local youth gang, the boys father insisted on his son's innocence and there was no clear evidence to implicate him.
A year later a 26-year-old man working at a Canadian government office in Tokyo was arrested. He resembled a composite portrait of the robber, but his alibi checked out and he was released without charge.

A composite image of the suspect in the 300 million yen robbery
A composite image of the suspect
Forty six years later Japan's biggest-ever cash heist, equivalent of $3.4 million today, remains unsolved. The investigation cost over $12 million and involved over 170,000 law enforcement officials,  questioning nearly 120,000 people.   In 1975 the statute of limitations on the crime passed and in 1988 all civil liabilities also ceased, but decades later the crime continues to captivate the nation, and books, movies, TV series and comic books are still being released.



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