OSAKA -- A group of Vietnamese men were found to have formed theft rings in Japan, shoplifting a large volume of cosmetic items from drugstores and major discount chains at the direction of a woman living in Vietnam and recruiting returning students to take their spoils back to the country to resell them there, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.
Osaka Prefectural Police arrested six Vietnamese students in their 20s, who made up two theft rings based in Tokyo and Osaka, as well as 23-year-old former student, Dao The Quang of Tokyo's Toshima Ward, who acted as their leader, on suspicion of theft. A portion of the group has been indicted on the charges, and three were given suspended sentences.
Dao was arrested specifically for stealing 25 cosmetic products worth roughly 24,000 yen from a discount store in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, with two members of the Tokyo group in October of last year. The other four students were arrested for stealing large amounts of lip cream and other cosmetics from drugstores and discount stores in Osaka's Chuo Ward in May and October of the same year. Together, the seven men are believed to have repeated the thefts a total of 15 times, stealing approximately 1.3 million yen worth of merchandise.
The group members, including Dao, came to Japan on student visas from 2013 and onward, and had attended Japanese language schools. The students reportedly told investigators that their actions were to "earn money for school and living costs."
The woman in Vietnam told the students through Facebook that she would buy skin-brightening lotion, sunscreen, magnetic necklaces, and other products made by major Japanese manufacturers. She told them to send the stolen items to Dao, and they are thought to have received a reward of less than 100,000 yen each time.
Dao is quoted as saying that he found returning students through Facebook and asked them to carry the products back to Vietnam in exchange for him paying for the returning students' plane tickets. The police believe that those students who carried the products back were not aware that they were stolen.
The Mainichi Shimbun contacted the manufacturers of the products, and the majority of the stolen items are not officially sold in Vietnam. However, the quality of Japanese cosmetics has spread by word of mouth in Vietnam, and they are being traded there at high prices.