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Smuggled guns may be in Okinawa

Date Posted: 2004-12-02

Hundreds of smuggled weapons are in Okinawa, and police think smugglers and gangsters are behind it.

Prefectural police Monday arrested a man on charges of possessing two pistols and matching ammunition. The guns and bullets had been hidden at a relative’s home. Officials say the hidden weapons were rotary chamber .38 caliber revolvers manufactured in Brazil.

The guns matched those involved in a 1995 smuggling incident where 17 men are believed responsible for moving 1,577 guns from South Africa to the southern part of Okinawa. Police earlier found 866 of those guns during arrests made in Japan.

The arrest came after nearly a year’s investigation. The suspect had initially been caught last December, attempting to take one of the stolen guns through an airport metal detector as he was enroute from Naha to an outer island. Questioned by security guards, he said he’d bought the gun from a stranger, and was allowed to continue travel.

Police now say the man is a part of the team which brought the guns into Okinawa. They say 710 pistols are still missing from the 1995 heist. Police say the guns were sold to gangsters once smuggled into Japan. It came, they believe, as a result of 1990-1992 fighting between rival gangs.

In one 1992 case, scandal the Liberal Democratic Party boss and Vice Prime Minister at the time on the mainland, Shin Kanemaru, was almost shot by gangsters during a meeting at City Hall in Tochigi Prefecture near Tokyo. Police say the revolver used against the vice prime minister was suspected to be one of the lot smuggled into Japan.

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