FUKUOKA – Police Friday continued their investigation into three suspected robbers in an alleged heist worth ¥384 million ($3.5 million) the previous day in central Fukuoka, believing they knew beforehand the victim planned to withdraw a large sum.
On Thursday, a company employee from Tokyo’s Adachi Ward reported to the police that he had been sprayed with a substance before the thieves grabbed the money from him in a parking lot across the street from a Mizuho Bank branch in the Tenjin district in the city of Fukuoka at around 12:25 p.m.
According to investigators, the 29-year-old employee of a precious metals shop in Tokyo told them he had traveled to Fukuoka on Tuesday to purchase gold and had informed the bank that he would take the money out on Thursday. He reportedly said he had visited the city a number of times for business.
On the night of the same day, police found men carrying a huge amount of cash at Fukuoka Airport and were questioning them as potential suspects.
But the men, including one believed to be a South Korean national, reportedly denied any involvement in the robbery. They did not match the witness accounts of the suspects, and the money they possessed was different from the amount taken, investigative sources said.
It was Japan’s fourth-largest postwar cash robbery, according to the National Police Agency.
The Fukuoka Prefectural Police set up a 155-member task force to investigate the alleged robbery, which occurred in an area bustling with offices and shops.
It is believed three people were involved in the robbery, including two who were wearing white masks who attacked the man. One of the attackers was wearing gray work clothes, while another was clad in black working clothes with a white head covering, the police said.
The third suspect was apparently waiting in a white van in a coin-operated parking lot. The victim was robbed of a carry-on bag containing the cash as he returned to his vehicle after leaving the bank.
The three robbers all fled the scene in the van, which was parked just a few spaces away from the man’s vehicle.
A woman who was in a building beside the parking lot said, “A man was shouting while chasing after the white van in the parking lot,” adding the van drove through the parking lot entrance barrier and onto a narrow backstreet.
Another witness said the driver of the van was wearing a mask and the rear windows were tinted black.
A woman who was working in a shaved ice trailer near the parking lot said she heard screeching tires and saw a white van speeding off, and that she heard the man shout “thieves.”
The man was quoted as telling police he was in Fukuoka on a business trip and the money was “for a deal.”
The man did not suffer any noticeable injuries in the incident, according to the police.
Last July, gold bars worth around ¥600 million were stolen near JR Hakata Station in the city while being transported to a cash-for-gold store.