A Japanese man believed to be the ringleader of a notorious “romance scam” that swindled dozens of victims out of nearly 400 million yen (approximately $2.9 million) in total has been detained in Ghana.
The Ghana Police Service confirmed in a tweet on Aug. 2 that they have arrested Hikaru Morikawa, 58, upon the request of Interpol Tokyo. The arrest came after Morikawa’s passport was revoked by Japan.
“The suspect was put before court and was remanded into lawful custody awaiting his removal from the country,” the Ghana Police Service wrote in the press release. “The INTERPOL Unit of the Ghana Police Service is working with the Ghana Immigration Service, INTERPOL Tokyo and the Japanese Embassy in Ghana for his removal.”
Morikawa is accused of being the ringleader of a “romance scam” in which his alleged accomplices posed as people working overseas to trick men and women they met on dating apps into sending them money for various reasons, such as shipping fees and living expenses. He is believed to have played a major role in swindling 65 people out of nearly 400 million yen (approximately $2.8 million) in total.
In one of the cases in August 2019, the Osaka prefectural police accused Morikawa of swindling a man in his 60s out of 1.15 million yen (approximately $8,300) while posing as a female Japanese doctor working in Yemen. He allegedly told the victim that he needed the money to send him a package.
According to reports, investigators with the Osaka prefectural police and the Sonezaki Police Station discovered that Morikawa swindled around 1.5 million yen (approximately $10,860) from two men he purportedly met via matchmaking apps.
Investigators also linked Morikawa to a case involving a Japanese woman in Tokyo who was defrauded by two men, believed to be a 52-year-old waterproofing worker in Yokohama and a 56-year-old yakuza gang leader with ties to the Sumiyoshi-kai crime syndicate in Tokyo, for around 340,000 yen (approximately $2,460).
Police believed the gang leader, who died in February, might have had a role in laundering money garnered from the “romance scams” in Japan.
Morikawa was placed on Interpol’s international wanted list in August 2021, and his mug shot was publicly released in May.
Police believe the man has been living in Ghana since August 2018. The Foreign Ministry ordered Morikawa to return his passport after it expired in February. He has been living in Ghana illegally ever since.