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Police suspect involvement of a group of Vietnamese behind the disappearance of hundreds of pigs and chickens, as well as thousands of pears and peaches, from farms this year in eastern Japan.

In connection with a series of suspected thefts of livestock and fruits in the northern Kanto region near Tokyo, nearly 20 Vietnamese have been arrested on suspicion of overstaying their visas or slaughtering pigs at home without permission from authorities, according to the police.

Four male Vietnamese technical trainees ages 20 to 30 were arrested last month for allegedly cutting pigs into pieces at their apartment in Ota, Gunma Prefecture, around July.

After receiving reports that meat and fruits were illegally traded on social media, local police have confiscated frozen pork, knives and other tools from the apartment and said video footage from one of the trainees’ social networking accounts shows a piglet being grilled over flames.

“I purchased pigs by social media,” the police quoted one of the four suspects as saying.

People in Japan are required to slaughter livestock in an authorized slaughterhouse, unless they obtain permission from a prefectural government.

The Gunma Prefectural Police also arrested a group of 13 Vietnamese men and women in late October on suspicion of overstaying their visas, suspecting several of them were behind the thefts of livestock and fruits. About 30 frozen chickens were found during a house raid in Ota, the police said.

Many theft cases have been reported between summer and fall this year in eastern Japan. In Gunma alone, about 710 pigs, 140 chickens and 5,400 pears were reported stolen.

Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures reported theft cases of about 3,700 peaches and about 1,100 persimmons, respectively.

In Saitama Prefecture, about 130 pigs, 80 chickens and over 5,100 pears were stolen.

On Sunday, the Saitama Prefectural Police arrested a Vietnamese man for allegedly slaughtering a pig at an apartment in Kamisato between July and Aug. 13.

“I bought a pig for 15,000 yen ($140) on social media and then slaughtered it with a knife and a burner, cut it into pieces and ate them with my roommate,” the 29-year-old suspect was quoted by the police as saying.

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