Three Taiwan nationals who were arrested on suspicion of using forged China UnionPay cards to illegally withdraw cash from automated teller machines in Japan used an unauthorized "minpaku" private residence as their hideout while repeatedly carrying out the crime, it has been learned.
The three were arrested on March 22 on suspicion of involvement in a large-scale scheme that used fake cards to withdraw a total of about ¥3.2 billion (S$40 million) in cash at ATMs from Chinese bank accounts. They stayed in a private condominium unit used as a minpaku lodging that was operated without authorisation, and illegally withdrew about ¥11 million in cash while in Japan, according to investigative sources.
The Metropolitan Police Department is increasingly concerned that criminal organisations are using unlicensed minpaku lodgings for such crimes, abusing the system in which minpaku service providers do not need to clarify their locations and are not required to confirm the identity of users.
A 24-year-old man and two other suspects, all Taiwan nationals, stayed in the about 38-square-meter rented condominium unit with one room, a living-dining room and kitchen in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, the sources said. They booked the unit on an online minpaku reservation site and paid for the accommodation beforehand.
A man who is believed to have taken the trio to Japan from Taiwan and given them instructions also stayed in the room, the sources said.
The operator of the minpaku lodging is a foreigner who lives in the unit. Without obtaining authorisation to operate a minpaku business, which is required under the Hotel Business Law, he sublet the unit without the permission of the house's owner, sources said.
When lodging operators provide rooms to foreign guests, the law requires the operators to keep the passport numbers of foreign users. But the operator did not ask them to show him their passports when he gave them the key to the room.
The suspects reportedly saw a classified employment advertisement in a Taiwan newspaper and applied for lottery-related work when they were in Taiwan. The man brought the trio from Taiwan to Japan on a short-stay visa on March 7. After arriving in Japan, they stayed two nights at a hotel, then moved to the minpaku lodging.
For about two weeks until they were arrested, they went to Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo; Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture; and other places by train and withdrew about ¥11 million from ATMs.
The targeted bank accounts included some Chinese accounts that contained money from bank transfer scams carried out in China, according to sources. Police found a great deal of UnionPay card-related information on a notebook computer discovered in the unit.
In a separate case in August last year related to fake UnionPay cards, the MPD arrested a 23-year-old Tawian national who also stayed in a minpaku lodging in Ota Ward, Tokyo. The man is believed to have chosen a minpaku for his stay because no one entered his room for cleaning or other reasons.
Many unauthorized minpaku lodgings do not publicly release details of their locations. Therefore, it takes time for police to specify suspects' hideouts, even after their arrest, which could let an accomplice get away in some cases, the sources said.Speech