Posted by Diana Stanley, Museum Volunteer and Customer Service Representative
Some crimes are brutal, others are frivolous, and some are just audacious. One such crime was the 300 Million Yen Heist committed December 10, 1968. The heist reigned supreme in Japan for over forty years as the largest robbery ever committed.
In 1968, employees of the small Nihon Shintaku Ginko bank transported a car containing the bonuses of Toshiba factory workers. In the days prior the bank received several bomb threats, so instead of the usual two bank employees, the bank sent four. During transport, a motorcycle policeman pulled the car over. The “policeman” told the group an individual blew up the bank manager’s house and there was a threat to the car. He said, “We have been informed your car may be wired with dynamite." The thief climbed under car reportedly to check for said explosives and set off a flare. The smoke and light sent the employees running for cover. After they were far enough back the "policeman" got out from under the car and drove away with it… and the cash.
Japan conducted a massive manhunt that involved over 170,000 policemen, but found nothing. The first suspect, the nineteen-year-old son of a motorcycle policeman, seemingly panned out after he committed suicide five days later on Dec. 15, 1968. A year later they arrested another suspect that looked like the sketch the witnesses provided. They let the 26-year-old man go because he had an alibi: he was taking a proctored test at the time of the robbery.
Years passed and the perpetrator was never found. Investigators closed the case in 1985 because of a seven-year statute of limitations in Japan. The investigation cost roughly fifteen million dollars, more than the amount stolen. The bank robber made off with 300 million yen in 1968, roughly equal to two million dollars at that time. It was still a lucrative heist. The thief singlehandedly stole what would be eight million in 2014 American dollars and never got caught.
Despite having no fear of legal repercussions, the man never came forward. This led to many theories and exposés by Japanese newspapers attempting to garner readers. The robber’s record was broken in 2011 by a 600 million yen heist, but the 1968 robbery is still more infamous, if only for its mysterious culprit. As Antoinne Riverol once said, “It is the dim haze of mystery that adds enchantment to pursuit.”
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