• Kyodo


Kidnapping charges have been filed against nine Japanese students already accused of assault after a fellow student at their Auckland-based performing arts academy was found dead earlier this week, New Zealand police said Friday.

The body of Nozomu Shinozaki, a 22-year-old man from Yokohama, was found by emergency services at the Columbus Academy in West Harbor, West Auckland, early Wednesday. He had suffered head injuries.

Academy director Katsuo Kanamori, also known as Soon Keuk Kim, was charged Thursday with attempting to obstruct justice after allegedly telling his students not to cooperate with police.

The further charge of kidnapping was leveled against all nine students when they appeared Thursday before the Waitakere District Court, Auckland police spokeswoman Rebekah Holt said.

All 10 Japanese nationals have been released on bail and are under supervision and a 24-hour curfew, she told Kyodo News. They did not enter a plea and were remanded for two weeks.

The students were identified as Kazuhiro Sato, 19, Ryu Fukushima, 22, Ryuji Hiraki, 26, Hidetaka Nishide, 26, Masato Fujita, 19, Motomu Kobori, 19, Daisuke Fukuda, 20, Tomohisa Kato, 17, and Nobu Oshima, 18.

Shinozaki’s family has arrived in Auckland from Japan, Holt said.

About 30 people were in the area at the time of Shinozaki’s death and police are conducting interviews with the assistance of the Japanese Consulate.

Police have said they are expecting to file further charges.

The academy was established in 1995 to help troubled young Japanese study and move into the workforce. About 50 academy students either live in dormitories in its five West Auckland properties or in home-stays around the city.

The students study at either high school or university level and some work in the academy’s two restaurants in central Auckland and suburban Henderson called Columbus Okonomiyaki.

Under the terms of the bail conditions, the students are staying at three different properties — two owned by the academy and one owned by the academy’s lawyer — while Kanamori, 49, is confined to his home and forbidden to contact them.

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