National

Clock ticking on Glico-Morinaga cases

Investigators are racing the clock with the statute of limitations on the unresolved poisoning and extortion crimes linked to the Glico-Morinaga case due to expire in a year.

It began with the kidnapping of Katsuhisa Ezaki, president of the major confectioner Ezaki Glico Co., in March 1984. Over the next 18 months, police were confronted with a wave of crimes, including arson, extortion, mass poisoning attempts and robbery, until the culprits reportedly “declared” they were finished.

The alleged perpetrators challenged and mocked authorities and targeted firms, sending letters to the media in which they openly ridiculed the police.

Despite a massive investigation involving more than over 1 million police officers at its peak, no clear traces of the self-billed “Mystery Man with 21 Faces” were found, and police have been unable to establish a clear motive for the crimes.

Some have guessed that a grudge against Ezaki was involved, others that the criminals were simply having fun. “That was a disgusting crime that put totally innocent people in fear. I want police to arrest the culprits,” said Hideshi Inagaki, a chief spokesman for the Maruei department store in Nagoya, one of the stores where cyanide-laced food turned up 14 years ago.

On March 18, 1984, Ezaki was abducted reportedly by three armed, masked men from his home in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture. He escaped unhurt three days later. Afterward, extortion attempts targeted one food company after another, starting with Ezaki Glico and including Morinaga & Co., another major confectioner. The kidnappers were believed behind the crimes.

Cyanide-laced candies and chocolates then turned up on store shelves in Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto, Hyogo, and Aichi prefectures, and the firms received extortion demands for hundreds of millions of yen. It is believed the firms never paid.

The statute of limitations expired in March 1994 on Ezaki’s abduction and the case was never solved. Time has since run out on most of the other crimes linked to the case.

Next Feb. 13, the statute of limitations runs out on two remaining attempted murder cases, involving poisoned candy found on store shelves in October 1984 and February 1985.

Investigators say they will do their best until the end. But it appears the Glico-Morinaga crimes will go unsolved.