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Saturday, Jan. 20, 2007

Japan gets Brazil to try man in fatal hit-and-run


Staff writer

A Japanese-Brazilian suspect in a fatal hit-and-run case in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, has been indicted in Sao Paulo, setting a landmark precedent in Tokyo's pursuit of foreign criminals who have escaped overseas, Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Friday.

The suspect in the 1999 case, identified as Milton Noboru Higaki, was charged Thursday after repeated requests from Tokyo to Brazilian authorities, the Foreign Ministry said.

The hit-and-run victim was high school student Mayumi Ochiai, 16. She was hit and killed by a car allegedly driven by Higaki on the night of July 26, 1999.

Higaki reportedly left Japan for Brazil four days later. The statute of limitations based on Brazilian laws was set to run out in July.

Japan had long engaged in talks with the Brazilian government over the man's case, because the Brazilian Constitution bans its government from handing over criminal suspects of Brazilian nationality to other countries, except for those suspected of drug-related offenses.

Japan has urged Brazil to conclude a bilateral treaty concerning handover of criminal suspects. Without such a treaty, Japan can only ask Brazilian authorities to punish suspects based on its domestic laws.

"No actions had been taken although the suspect has been back in Brazil, and evidence (of his involvement) was conclusive. We had thought this (situation) outrageous," Aso said. "(The indictment) has set a precedent. There are many cases like this," including hit-and-runs and robberies involving Brazilian suspects, he said.

According to the National Police Agency, 86 Brazilians suspected of committing crimes in Japan were at large overseas as of the end of 2005.

Japan has concluded treaties for handover of criminal suspects with the United States and South Korea.

A total of 302,000 registered Brazilian nationals were living in Japan as of the end of 2005, according to the Justice Ministry. Most are believed to be Japanese-Brazilians.



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