Tax man attempts bank robbery

Senior collector nabbed after holding clerk at knifepoint

Kyodo News

Japan witnessed yet another oddball crime Tuesday when a tax man turned to bank robbery in Nagoya and held a bank clerk at knifepoint for an hour before he was apprehended.

Junji Chatani, 42, an employee of the Sakurai Tax Office in Sakurai, Nara Prefecture, is suspected of entering the Higashi branch of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ around 11 a.m., armed with a 15-cm fish knife, police said.

He took a female clerk hostage and demanded 10 million yen in cash and a getaway car, police said. After his demand was rejected, he took the woman to a parking lot outside the branch.

About an hour later, the clerk bolted when Chatani lit a cigarette — at the suggestion of a police officer. When Chatani tried to chase the clerk, he was collared. She was unhurt.

Aside from the knife, Chatani was carrying scissors and several thousand yen in cash. He did not try to hide his face.

A resident of Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, Chatani is a senior tax-examination officer at the Sakurai tax bureau, handling corporate tax matters, police said.

According to his family and colleagues, Chatani disappeared on April 25 and later mailed a letter of resignation to the tax bureau.

Colleagues and neighbors described him as a man of few words and were puzzled by his actions.

His wife, however, said Chatani apparently had a trouble over his job. He has two children.

Motohide Hashimoto, general affairs chief at the Osaka Regional Taxation Bureau, told reporters that Chatani called in sick on the morning of April 25. But that evening, his wife called to say her husband was unaccounted for. His superior then tried to contact him on his mobile phone several times but got no answer.

On April 27, a letter from Chatani was mailed to the tax bureau, saying he was resigning for personal reasons. The wife filed a missing persons report with police Sunday.

Hashimoto said there were no signs that Chatani had any problems at the tax office.

“I was surprised to see the news on the Internet. I’m still at a loss,” said a 55-year-old colleague of Chatani at the Sakurai tax bureau.

A man who lives near the Chatani also said he could not believe he would commit a crime. “It’s unbelievable. I never heard of any rumors that he was pressed for money,” the neighbor said.

The bank branch is located in a relatively quiet residential area, but the atmosphere grew extremely tense when more than 20 police cars rushed there.

There were about 10 customers and 50 bank employees in the branch at the time of the stickup. Customers expressed shock over the incident.

“I saw a man dragging a female clerk outside the branch office, grabbing her from behind,” a female customer said. “He had no expression, behaving as if nothing was going on.”