A joint task force led by the National Police Agency’s National Cyber Unit and 16 prefectural police departments arrested a 44-year-old man Tuesday on suspicion of unlawfully accessing internet banking accounts.

The suspect, Yohei Yano, already imprisoned under a separate case, is believed to be the mastermind behind a group involved in fraudulent transfers exceeding ¥120 million between 2022 and 2023.

The case marks the first arrest within Japan by the National Cyber Unit since its establishment in April 2022. Prior to the unit's involvement, the joint task force had apprehended nine members of the group.

The group reportedly exploited stolen IDs and passwords to access victims' bank accounts, employing a technique called "SIM swapping" to hijack smartphones. Funds were then transferred to cryptocurrency accounts controlled by the group.

Recruitment for the scheme was conducted through social media, with members lured by the promise of a lucrative side job. Instructions were disseminated via secure messaging apps like Telegram.

Yano’s identity was revealed following an investigation that tracked cryptocurrency flows and analyzed smartphones seized from other members. He is suspected of using stolen IDs and passwords to access others' internet banking accounts in January last year.

Translated by The Japan Times