This Is The Greatest Bank Heist in Japanese History

– I’m Kento Bento. – This video is
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the link in the description. Tokyo; December 10th, 1968. It was pouring rain. The bank manager of the
Nihon Trust bank was on edge. Someone had threatened his
life and those around him over the past few months. Just four days prior, a
letter, one of recent many, was sent to his personal residence
demanding 300 million yen or his house would be
blown up with dynamite. The letter was made up
of characters cut out and pasted from movie magazines. Police were notified; and
indeed they kept a close eye on the bank and his home; though, this did not ease the mind
of the bank manager who shared his concerns with
his branch employees. Now of course, this is
Japan, and work is work; the show must go on. With this in mind, the bank
manager went on with his duties, sending four of
his employees to the nearby Toshiba factory to make a scheduled drop. So off they went, taking the company car, but not long after leaving the bank, the four heard police sirens approaching. At that very moment
they happened to be next to a prison of all places. A police officer screeched
to a halt in front of the car, and frantically
got off his motorcycle to warn them. The branch manager’s home
had just been blown up, people were injured; and
some presumably worse. Despite police monitoring the locations, the perpetrator was still
able to carry out his threat. But it wasn’t over,
additional threats were made. The bank in particular was
now a target and branch employees were at risk,
especially those who had left the bank earlier to
carry out bank duties in clearly-marked company cars. Their car needed to be searched. The officer got down
underneath to check the car, but before he could do a
proper search, an employee started noticing smoke and
flames emerging from the vehicle. Fearing the car was about to explode, the officer desperately
tried to roll out of the way. Everyone ran as fast as
they could to safety, retreating behind the prison walls. They waited and waited for the explosion. But there was no explosion. They looked back, and realized
the company car was gone. The police officer was gone. Had he moved the car to safety? Confused, they called the
Nihon Trust bank to find out what was going on. To their relief, the
bank manager answered; he was alive and well. In fact, everything was fine there; the bank manager’s home
was never blown up. As the adrenaline wore off,
it finally dawned on them what had happened. This was the moment the
perpetrator had been setting up the past few months. Disguised as a police officer, he had now gotten away with
what was to be the bonus payments of 523 Toshiba employees; the stolen amount totaled
to 300 million yen or six million dollars, the
exact amount he had asked for. On the ground they found
various items left behind including a warning flare
that the officer must have ignited while under the
car, to mimic dynamite. A reported 120 pieces of
evidence was left behind at the crime scene, which is
a lot and would normally be beneficial, but this was purposely done to mislead the investigation. This worked. Half a century later, the
case remains unsolved. Some say this was the
greatest heist in Japanese history; there was no loss
of life, no blood spilt; the plan meticulously
carried out by a single person; and in the end the money taken; but there are many ways a
bank heist can be great, there are many ways it can be notable. Take the case on May 15th, 2016. At around 5:00 a.m. in the early hours, cash was physically withdrawn from an ATM from a Tokyo 7-Eleven. The amount was a 100,000 yen, about $880, which was the cash limit. Now, this doesn’t seem too bad; but try repeating this
14,000 times across Japan in the span of just two hours. Because that is exactly what happened. In total, 1.4 billion yen,
about 13 million dollars, was taken from ATMs alone; and this wasn’t done electronically. It was done in person. Sure, it had to have
been some sort of a large coordinated group, but
the staggering number of transactions in a two hour frame made even this seem questionable. Compared to other notable cases, the largest known recorded
number of participants to have been involved in a single heist, wouldn’t have been able
to pull this off either; unless they had super powers. Involving an even larger
team would presumably be unwise, as there’d be too
many chefs in the kitchen. Now after police completed
their painstaking process of checking security footage
from each 7-Eleven store and yeah it was only 7-Elevens hit, they found their answer. In this particular case,
the more chefs the better. It wasn’t a team of 50,
or 100, or even 200. It was 600 people. 600 people pulling off a sophisticated, highly-coordinated heist
using fake credit cards. Quite the contrast from
the single perpetrator of our first heist. Not surprisingly, people
have surmised with this many active participants, there
must have been links to a large crime organization. But as of today, despite the numbers, no one of note has been caught. Now here’s a quick one. Kobe. August 7th, 1994. 540 million yen was
stolen from Fukutoku Bank; which is a sizeable amount,
but what makes this story so unique is that 10 days after the heist, the bank, still reeling from
the events, received a note from the robbers. The note read Thank you
very much for the bonus. We can now live on this loot
for the rest of our lives. It was a sincere message of gratitude. Yeah we all know the
reputation Japanese people have for being polite but
this took it to another level. So, the last three cases
involved plans being executed perfectly with no loss of life, but not the case with the next one. We’re going way back. January 26th, 1948. Again in Tokyo; a man in his
forties walked into a branch of the Imperial Bank,
just before closing time. 16 people were inside including
customers and bank workers. He got everyone’s attention and explained he was a government health inspector sent by the US occupation authorities. Remember, this was postwar Tokyo, still under US occupation. The man stated there was a
sudden outbreak of dysentery in the area, and he was
to carry out inoculations. In postwar Tokyo, the
disease was a legitimate threat so no one really
doubted him, add to the fact the man wearing an official
government armband. He gave all 16 people a pill, and a few drops of liquid,
which they quickly drank. Now, it wasn’t long, until they
fell, one by one; in agony. With everyone incapacitated,
the so-called health inspector grabbed all the money he could find, and calmly left. 12 of the 16 people would
later be confirmed dead, including a young child. The solution they drank
was a cyanide solution. This was a ruthless way
to go about a heist; but what made this even more
strange was that the man left behind a business card;
he left it at the scene. The card was marked with
the name Shigeru Matsui, apparently from the Department
of Disease Prevention; which does make sense since he was pretending to be a health official. But Shigeru Matsui turned out to be a real person, who actually worked for the Department of Disease Prevention. Not surprisingly, upon
investigation Matsui was cleared, he was not the robber,
he had several alibis. But he told police he had
exchanged business cards with 593 individuals. Japanese people have the
habit of exchanging business cards with personal details;
so this was helpful, as police now had 593 suspects. Over time, they were able to
whittle down this number to just eight cards, eight suspects, one of which was a man
named Sadamichi Hirasawa, a Japanese painter. When Hirasawa was questioned
and asked to produce the card of Shigeru Matsui’s
which he should have had; he could not. He claimed it must have
been in his wallet which was stolen the other day. He was a victim of pickpocketing. Of course, police had a
feeling they knew exactly where the card was. When asked to produce
an alibi, he could not. When police looked into his history, they found four previous
cases of bank fraud. When they searched his possession, they found a similar amount
of money to that stolen from the bank, Hirasawa suspiciously refused to divulge how he got the money. Finally, when his face was
shown to eye witnesses, they immediately identified
him as the poisoner. Upon further interrogation,
Hirasawa confessed. He was arrested for the
robbery and the murders; and in 1950, he was given
the death penalty, he was sent to death row to await
execution by hanging. Case closed. Or is it? Because after the trial,
some had doubts whether Sadamichi Hirasawa was
indeed the perpetrator. Everything mentioned was circumstantial. In fact, it was revealed
his confession was viciously beaten out of him; allegedly tortured; and it was only two of the
eyewitnesses who identified him as the criminal. Perhaps he was telling the truth. Perhaps he was really a victim of pickpocketing as he claimed. The unexplained origin of
the money in his possession was also thought by some to
be from his side business of drawing pornographic
pictures, revealing this truth to police, and to
the public, would have been detrimental to his
reputation as an artist. There was also no way Hirasawa could have realistically obtained the
ingredients for what turned out to be a military
grade cyanide solution used in the robbery. Interestingly, some have
claimed that the true culprit was actually
a former member of the notorious Unit 731; a covert
biological and chemical warfare research and
development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army;
that undertook lethal human experimentation during wartime. If so, this would explain the
accessibility to the poison. The Minister of Justice
himself doubted Hirasawa’s guilt and so never
signed the death warrant. This opinion was shared by
successive Ministers of Justice, so the death sentence was
never actually carried out. And so Hirasawa sat in
prison, on death row, for the next 32 years of his life, one of the longest
tenures ever on death row. And on May 10th, 1987, he
caught pneumonia and died in a prison hospital. Despite the verdict, the
case was never truly put to rest, and many people felt
that the true culprit, all those years ago, would
have been within grasp if only the focus was on the right person. This brutality happened
in 1948, but 70 years on, there would emerge a new type of heist. January 25th, 2018. Land of the rising cyber-crime. The Tokyo-based exchange, Coincheck, one of the most prominent
virtual currency exchanges in Asia was to fall victim to the biggest cryptocurrency heist in history. At 2:57 a.m., using overseas servers, hackers disguising
themselves as authorized users, were able to enter the system. They remained undetected for
the next eight and a half hours, stealing 58
billion yen worth of the cryptocurrency NEM, which is
about $530 million dollars. Then they were gone. This incident became
an embarrassment to the Japanese government who had
been trying to make Tokyo the global center for cryptocurrency. Coincheck revealed they failed
to implement the required extra layer of security, but even worse the stolen
currency had been kept online in a hot wallet
rather than in a much more secure offline storage facility
known as a cold wallet. This is similar to if a
convenience store kept significantly large amounts
in a cash register as opposed to an off-premise bank vault. Now one of the stranger
aspects of the heist is that the stolen virtual funds
were able to be traced online, because transactions
for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are all public. And so the $530 million
worth was eventually traced back to 11 specific addresses; but the identities of those
sending and receiving the money unfortunately remained anonymous. Indeed no one yet has been caught, but the developers of
NEM were able to label the 11 addresses with specific
warning tags for all to see, they also set up a tracking
tool to automatically reject exchanges involving the stolen funds. Of course the most
frustrating part of this is that it all easily could
have been avoided if Coincheck just added that
extra layer of security. And really it’s not just big companies; most people today are too
laxed when it comes to online security using the
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