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Six held after Tokyo heist may belong to crime group

today Jan 10, 2010
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HONG KONG, Jan 10, 2010 (AFP) - Six people arrested in Hong Kong following a multi-million US dollar jewellery heist in Tokyo may belong to an international crime gang behind similar robberies, a report said Sunday 10 January.

Pedestrians are seen at Tokyo's Ginza shopping district - Photo: AFP/File/Kazuhiro Nogi

The gang -- known for boring through walls to gain access to jewellery stores -- usually leaves the country after a robbery, Japanese press reports said.

Acting on a tip, Hong Kong police said they raided several flats in the southern Chinese city after thieves stole 200 luxury watches and jewellery from a store in Tokyo's Ginza shopping district between December 31 and January 2.

Police would not confirm whether the people they arrested last week -- three men and three women -- are connected to other robberies in Japan.

"At the moment, the only information we have is that these people are involved in the (latest) robbery in Tokyo," a police spokesman said.

But the daily South China Morning Post quoted Superintendent Adrian Kwan of Hong Kong's Organised Crime and Triad Bureau as saying: "We believe this was not the first time they have stolen in Japan. They chose Japan as the target because they found the shops were easier (to rob)."

Most of the suspects in previous incidents were of Chinese origin, as were the six detained in the latest three-million US dollar heist.

Police seized about 180 luxury watches, 100 rings and "a quantity" of cash, the spokesman said, adding that some of the stolen goods had already been sold.

"The property seized is believed to be connected to the robbery in Japan," he told AFP.

The incident follows a robbery in February last year involving the theft of 540,000 US dollars worth of luxury items from a shop also in Tokyo's Ginza district.

Both robberies saw the thieves bore through the shops' walls to gain access to luxury items, Tokyo police have said.

A group using similar tactics is believed to be responsible for a string of heists in the late 1980s and 1990s, with the syndicate having reappeared in the past several years according to Japanese press reports.

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