FUKUOKA – A court on Monday sentenced three men to up to seven years in prison over the theft of gold bars worth ¥750 million ($6.8 million) in July 2016 in Fukuoka.
The Fukuoka District Court ordered seven years in prison for Tomonori Shiraishi, 36, and 5½ years for both Takahiro Shirane, 28, and Takumi Uchida, 26.
Prosecutors had sought a 9-year term for Shiraishi and eight years for Shirane and Uchida. The three pleaded not guilty, arguing that there was a prior arrangement to transport the gold.
According to the indictments, two men carrying the gold bars in attache cases to a cash-for-gold store near Hakata Station were approached by several men, including the three defendants, wearing fake police uniforms.
The group stole the gold bars, which weighed about 160 kilograms, after telling the two men the bars had to be inspected at a police station because they were suspected of having been smuggled into Japan.
In handing down the ruling, the presiding judge, Koji Hiratsuka, dismissed the defendants’ claim, concluding that because they were disguised as police officers and fled by car, the crime was premeditated theft.
“It was a planned, systematically committed crime,” Hiratsuka said. “The financial damage is large and it is malicious.”
While the prison terms were justified using the financial damage and maliciousness of the crime, Hiratsuka also said the three men followed the directions of two others and did not play principal roles.
A total of seven people related to the theft were indicted. A ruling for Kazuki Noguchi, 43, and his brother Naoki, 45, who are believed to have been the key culprits, is scheduled to handed down on Tuesday.
During the investigation, a police officer in Aichi Prefecture was suspected of having leaked information about the investigation into the gold theft to an acquaintance of Noguchi, who was living in Aichi at the time.
But the Aichi police concluded in September 2018 following an internal probe that no leaks related to the theft were made.
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