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February 02,
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MEDIA WATCH: Weeklies spar over crime of the century
By Masuo Kamiyama

The name, age and present whereabouts of one of Japan's most successfulcriminals are officially unknown. What IS known is that on the morning of December 10, 1968, a young man posing as a motorcycle policeman hoodwinked four employees of the Nihon Trust Bank out of 294,307,500 yen they were transporting in the car's trunk.

The ''300 million yen robbery'' was Japan's biggest heist. But aseven-year police investigation led nowhere, and in December 1975, thestatute of limitations on the crime passed without an arrest; by 1988, therobber was relieved of any civil liabilities, freeing him, if he sodesired, for TV appearances and book signings.

The 30th anniversary of the crime came and went no closer to a solution. Then Shukan Hoseki (Jan. 28) launched a series exposing the man who pulled off the job. Or so he claims. Reporter Takashi Obayashi says he traced 55-year Yuji Ogata to Kagoshima through the existence of a 500-yen note that Ogata supposedly gave to a 10-year old boy for ''good luck'' back in 1968. Ogata openly admitted that he and a cohortwere able to sneak the money past police roadblocks using a light truck transporting glass panes. Soon afterward they fled to opposite ends of the archipelago.

But Focus (Jan. 27) responded by shooting numerous holes in ShukanHoseki's story, citing a lack of convincing evidence and attacking Ogata'scredibility. ''He always has been a bit of a windbag,'' remarks the wife ofhis alleged cohort.

Soon afterwards, Shukan Shincho (Jan. 28) added its own denunciation of the Hoseki article, claiming that Ogata faces arrest for fraud. And if he had really managed to grab so much loot back in '68, it asks, why do his relatives insist he touched them for loans around the same time?

Takashi Obayashi, writer of the Shukan Hoseki series, has anotherexplanation for Shincho's virulent attack: simple rivalry. ''They threatenedOgata with a smear campaign if he couldn't produce conclusive evidence,'' hetells Tokyo Sports (Jan. 23). ''Their circulation is down, and what's more,a sister publication, Shincho 45, recently began running its own seriesclaiming it has 'solved' the robbery."

If there's anything certain, it's that this story probably hasenough loose ends to keep investigative reporters busy for years to come.

(Masuo Kamiyama is a Tokyo-based writer and translator.)

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