• Kyodo

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A group of men broke into a trucking company office in Tochigi Prefecture during the weekend and stole 524 million yen in cash, police officials said Monday.

It is the second-largest amount of cash stolen in a single robbery case, after 541 million yen was taken from a cash delivery van in a parking lot of the Fukutoku Bank’s Kobe branch in August 1994.

Police said a group of four or five men broke into Tobu Unyu Tochigi in the town of Minami-Kawachi at around 6:20 p.m. Sunday.

The men threatened two security guards with a stun gun and what appeared to be a handgun before asking for the key to the safe, which contained cash picked up from area businesses. They then bound the guards’ hands and legs with adhesive tape, police said.

The men opened the safe, took the money and left. The security guards were unharmed.

The bags also contained stocks and bonds whose value has not been released.

The cash was the sales proceeds of supermarkets and other shops in the prefecture that had been collected earlier in the day. It was scheduled to be transported to Tokyo on Monday morning, police said.

They think someone who knew the cash transport schedule may have been involved in the robbery.

Tobu Unyu Tochigi said it owns 14 cash delivery vans.

The incident occurred immediately after one of the vans left the office following the last of the day’s deliveries.

The security guards, who had been working in the office since Sunday morning, were putting the money bags into the safe and finishing up for the day when the robbers broke in, the company said.

One of the robbers wore black clothes and hid his face with a black mask. He was holding what appeared to be a handgun and might have spoken broken Japanese, police quoted the witnesses as saying. Another member of the group wore a red mask and carried a stun gun.

After the robbers left, the guards tore off the tape bindings and called the police.

The office is along National Highway No. 4, about 1 km north of JR Jichi-idai Station.

The National Police Agency said there have been 14 robberies involving heists of 100 million yen or more since 1989, when the NPA began keeping relevant statistics. Seven of the cases took place in Tokyo.

The Fukutoku Bank case of 1994 remains unresolved, although the Hyogo Prefectural Police put an underworld man on the wanted list on suspicion of involvement. The statute of limitations on the case expired in April 2002.

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