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The Unsolved Case of The 300 Million Yen Robbery

The ''300 million yen robbery'' was Japan's biggest also the single largest heist which occurred on the December 1968, in Tokyo, Japan. 50 years later, the case remains unsolved and mystery still surrounds the identity and fate of the perpetrator.

On December 6th, four days just before the heist, someone threatened the Bank's manager to blow up the bank if the manager didn't hand 3 million yen to a female employee. The employee would deposit the sum at a designated location. Despite of the threat, the bank didn't respond to the demand. Instead, the Fuchuu Police Office sent around 50 officers to crawl the area for clues and protect bank personnel.

On December 10, 1968, a car owned by the Nihon Shintaku Bank was transporting slightly more than 294 million yen – worth about US$817,500 at 1968 exchange rates – in winter bonuses to the employees of Toshiba’s factory in Fuchuu, a suburb of west Tokyo. In Japan, nearly all companies award bonuses to employees on a twice-yearly basis. One bonus comes in the summer, around June or July, and another in winter, near the end of the year. It's a tradition that started in Japan's Edo era. At the time, sending such large sums in cash by car was considered routine.

Image Credit: Unseen Japan

While driving behind Fuchuu Prison en route to the bank, suddenly a man in the uniform of an officer in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police’s motorcycle unit waved down at the car's driver and blocked their path.

Aerial View of Fuchuu Prison in 1989
Image Credit: Wikipedia

The driver rolled down his window and asked the man he thought was an officer, “What's wrong?”

“There's been an explosion at the bank you're going to,” the cyclist said. “We have information that someone may have planted dynamite in this car too. Let me investigate.

Portrait of the suspect, released in 1968
Image Credit: Unseen Japan

The bank employees believed the thief was a real police officer, and accepted his story about the bomb because threatening letters had been sent to the bank manager beforehand.

The four security guards got out as the policeman went underneath the car to check for explosives. Soon after, the guards noticed smoke and flames from under the vehicle. The policeman rolled out, shouting that it was about to explode. As the panic-stricken guards ran away, the policeman got in and drove off, along with the money.

It only took a minute for the driver to realize that there was no bomb. The “police motorcycle” was a fake. They had been had. The smoke and flames turned out to be the result of a warning flare he had ignited while under the car.

A vast investigation followed. Over 150.000 policemen went through 110,000 suspect names using 780,000 montage pictures throughout Japan with the total cost of the investigation totaling 900 million yen. But they did not find their robber. 

At the crime scene, 120 pieces of evidence were found. This included the Yamaha bike he was riding, a hunting hat, the road flare, and a magnet. Police also determined from saliva on the postage stamps on the letters that their suspect's blood type was B.

A 19-year-old man, the son of a police officer, was suspected just after the robbery. He died of potassium cyanide poisoning on December 15, 1968. He had no alibi. However, the money was not found at the time of his death. His death was deemed a suicide and he was considered not guilty, according to official record.

Police later realised that some of the “evidence” was planted there ingeniously to confuse the investigation.

A seven-year police investigation led nowhere, and in December 1975, the statute of limitations on the crime passed without an arrest; by 1988, the robber was relieved of any civil liabilities. This means that he is able to openly admit guilt without fear of arrest or prosecution. However, nobody has yet to come forward until today.


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