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Persistent cops finally bust gun smuggler

Date Posted: 2011-07-21

Okinawa Prefectural Police spent nearly 11 years building a case, but have finally succeeded in arresting a 42-year-old man on charges of smuggling and violating the Firearms and Sword Control Law.

The investigation began in September 2000, when about 1,000 cartridges of ammunition and 86 guns were confiscated on the sea off Ishigaki Island. For years, police thought they knew who was responsible, but couldn’t nail it down. Because the suspect had left the country, the normal seven-year statute of limitations didn’t apply, and police continued pressing the case.

On July 14th, Okinawa Prefectural Police arrested the suspect, Yuichi Murakami, who had been on a wanted list as a suspect for the smuggling attempt. They charged him with violation of the Firearm and Sword Control Law. Murakami was arrested by the Philippines’ Police at the Philippines where he had escaped at the end of June, and then, he was transferred to Okinawa last Friday.

According to Okinawa Prefectural Police investigators, Murakami denies the charges and claims that “I didn’t know about smuggling. I was only an interpreter for the men who are seen as accomplices.” The statute of limitations for Murakami had been seven years, but the limitation didn’t apply in this case because he stayed overseas.

According to Okinawa Prefectural Police, Murakami is suspected of carrying cartridges and guns with the purpose of profit in collusion with other four men September 21st and 22nd in 2000 while on a yacht, to a spot on the sea off Ishigaki Island. From there, officials say, he was planning to transfer the ammunition and guns to the shore on a smaller boat. A patrol boat of the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters discovered the yacht on the open sea west of Ishigaki Island.

A Coast Guard officer captured a bag of guns on the yacht, which two men on the yacht tried to throw overboard into the sea. According to a person familiar with the investigation, Murakami was not at the scene of the crime, but he is seen as deeply involved in the smuggling.

Okinawa Prefectural Police were not able to track Murakami’s movements at that time, but later received information that he was staying in the Philippines, and asked investigation assistance from the police authorities of the Philippines, who put Murakami on the wanted list.

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