Japanese police admit botching online threat probe but deny forcing the confessions made by the innocent

Kyodo

Police admitted Friday they bungled their investigations into online threats sent via virus-infected computers of unwitting parties and thus made four wrongful arrests, realizing their error only after the apparent true culprit made contact, but they denied forcing the four to confess.

The Tokyo, Osaka, Kanagawa and Mie prefectural forces released reports of their investigation into the wrongful arrests earlier this year of four people whose computers had initially appeared to be the source of the online threats.

The Kanagawa Prefectural Police said their questioning of a teenager they wrongfully arrested in July on suspicion of posting an email threat on the Yokohama Municipal Government website was inappropriate. They said the attitude of the investigators “may have bemused the minor” who was arrested, but claimed they did not force the suspect into making the confession provided.

In their report, the Kanagawa police also said they relied too much on the Internet protocol address of the email, failed to fully investigate the case, and assumed the university student was the culprit. The investigators and senior police officials have been penalized based on internal rules, they said.

The Metropolitan Police Department said in their report that they could not detect that the man they wrongfully arrested was making false statements, adding the investigators never forced him to confess.

Mie police meanwhile said they failed to investigate whether the man they arrested had a motive to send the threat.

Osaka police said their investigators failed to validate the confession made by the man they wrongfully arrested. They also said investigators lacked the technology and time to analyze all the data on the man’s personal computer.

The four innocent people were arrested between July and September after email threats were sent from their computers, which had been infected with malicious software enabling them to be remotely controlled.

The four police departments said they have already apologized to the victims.

Following the release of the reports, the National Police Agency requested that all police forces learn from the wrongful arrests and make every effort to prevent further mishandling.

In October, an unidentified party, claiming to be the real culprit, sent email messages to Tokyo Broadcasting System Television Inc. and a lawyer, giving details of the cases.

The agency has offered a cash reward of up to ¥3 million for information that could pinpoint the culprit.