National / Crime & Legal

Grisly Osaka dismemberment murder casts shadow over minpaku business

Kyodo

A second arrest warrant was served Wednesday for an American man already in custody in connection with a human head and other body parts discovered in Osaka and Kyoto prefectures, police said.

The man, Yevgeniy Vasilievich Bayraktar, was re-arrested on suspicion of abandoning the body parts identified as those of a 27-year-old woman from Hyogo Prefecture.

The Hyogo Prefectural Police, who served the new arrest warrant, identified the victim as Saki Kondo, who Bayraktar was seen with prior to her going missing.

Kondo’s body is believed to have been dismembered in a rented minpaku in Osaka between Feb. 16-18. Bayraktar was renting two other short-term private lodging facilities at the same time last week, investigators said.

The involvement of the short-term rentals, commonly called minpaku in Japan, is at the center of the grisly case which has been unfolding since the woman went missing mid-February.

Minpaku residences have become increasingly popular among low-budget travelers, however a large majority of them are unauthorized, and at least two of the short-term rentals Bayraktar used were also so-called illegal minpaku.

The head of the victim’s was found in a suitcase Sunday in the rental in Nishinari Ward, Osaka. Bayraktar had also reserved a similar room in the nearby city of Nara, according to the investigators.

He was arrested Thursday on suspicion of imprisoning the victim. Police have confirmed through surveillance video footage that he was repeatedly going in and out of a condominium in Higashinari Ward, Osaka, between Feb. 16-18, carrying a travel bag.

The 26-year-old New Yorker left the condo Feb. 18 and the police suspect he moved the dead body to the rental in Nishinari Ward, Osaka, and to other sites around that time.

The tourist, who entered the country in January, has already admitted to disposing of her body. The police on Monday, with his assistance, found severed body parts in mountainous areas in Osaka and Kyoto prefectures. They quoted the American as saying he plans to use his right to remain silent from here on out.

Bayraktar’s neighbors back in Long Island said they were surprised to hear the news, saying they did not really know him or talk with him often.

The case has sparked debate on how best to regulate minpaku. In the city of Osaka alone, there are an estimated 10,000 such residences, but those that have been authorized by local authorities represent less than 20 percent of the total, at around 1,700, according to officials.

In June, Japan will enact a national law to allow property owners to rent out vacant homes or rooms to tourists for up to 180 days per year after registering with local municipalities. Currently, home-sharing services are only allowed in special designated areas.

Osaka lawmakers are divided on whether the city should impose its own minpaku rules. Its mayor, Hirofumi Yoshimura is opposed to introducing strict regulations, saying what needs to be done to reduce illegal minpaku is to improve their management.