San Oku En Jiken

50 years ago this morning, four bank employees in Japan were transporting almost 300 million yen designated as bonuses for Toshiba workers. As they passed Fuchu Prison, a police motorcycle drew alongside, signalling them to pull over. After they complied, the young uniformed officer provided dramatic news that their branch manager’s house had been blown up and that information indicated that their vehicle could also be a target. This rang true; after all, their manager had received several threatening letters in recent weeks.

Understandably panicked, the courier quartet disembarked and retreated to what they presumed was a safe distance, while the cop crawled beneath the car to inspect it for any evidence of foul play. Within apparently a few seconds, smoke began to billow forth, and suddenly the officer rolled out, yelling a warning of imminent explosion. Following his desperate gesticulations, the bank employees speedily fled to the prison walls…

…whereupon the ‘police officer’ calmly got into their car and drove away.


The thief had used a simple warning flare to simulate the smoke and flames, and left 120 other pieces of evidence at the scene of the crime including the ‘police’ motorcycle – itself just a regular motorbike painted white. However, these were common, everyday items, scattered deliberately to confuse the authorities.

Despite the largest investigation in Japanese history, involving 170,000 policemen attempting to narrow down a list of suspects 110,000 names long, the perpetrator was never brought to justice. One suspect, a 19 year old son of a police officer, committed suicide mere days after the crime. A friend of his, 18 at the time of the robbery, was arrested in 1975 and could not account for the large amount of money then in his possession, but the authorities were frustrated in their attempts to find any proof that he had obtained the cash by illegal means.

Since 1988, the various statutes of limitations have elapsed, meaning that the culprit could come forward without fear of prosecution should he so wish. He has not so wished.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…


About Seba Roux

Gooner, Socialist, Historian, Slacker. That's pretty much all you need to know.
This entry was posted in Journalism, Short Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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