Police hit back as drug war heats up in Aichi
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN NAGOYA--Police here say a turf war is escalating among gangs of Iranian drug dealers in Aichi Prefecture.
As evidence for this, they don't just cite the occasional shooting or kidnapping.
Police increasingly are coming across moshi moshi denwa, cellphones which contain the numbers of dealers' customers.
Moshi moshi denwa are so-named because dealers greet their customers simply with moshi moshi (hello), but never give out their names.
Last month, the Aichi prefectural police seized 13 cellphones from Tarbit Lakhmani, a 31-year-old Iranian arrested on suspicion of violating the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law.
All 13 phones were confirmed to have been used to deal drugs, police said.
According to the international investigation section of the Aichi prefectural police and the Mizuho Police Station in Nagoya, some of the cellphones seized from Lakhmani contained dozens of numbers of customers. Others had hundreds of names inputted.
Police said they believe Lakhmani is a high-ranking member of gang of Iranians living in Nagoya.
Moshi moshi denwa are sometimes sold for astonishing prices. A phone can fetch as much as 10 million yen in Nagoya and a whopping 50 million yen, the price of a new house, in the Mikawa region of eastern Aichi Prefecture, sources said.
Some Iranians sell their phones at high prices to group members before they return to their homeland, the sources said.
Police suspect the recent increase in incidents is due to a Nagoya-based group and a Toyohashi-based gang from the Mikawa region that are scrambling to monopolize existing Moshi moshi denwa for users in the Mikawa region.
Police say the reason for increased interest in Mikawa region is due to the fact the number of Japanese-Brazilians working in factories of subcontractors for car manufacturers is increasing.
"It is easier for drug dealers to obtain new customers in the region compared to Nagoya, where the market has already matured," said an official.
In February this year, two men, who police suspect were Iranians, fired several shots at a moving car on a national road in Mizuho Ward, Nagoya. The pair abandoned their car at the scene and fled on foot.
In June, an Iranian was abducted from Chikusa Ward, Nagoya. In July, another Iranian was kidnapped in Naka Ward, also in Nagoya.
Police suspect that, in those incidents, the Toyohashi group was trying to protect its turf from members of the Nagoya group.
All three incidents took place around midnight on weekends, when drug trafficking is most active, police said.
Due to the potential that innocent people could be caught up in the conflict, prefectural police last month ordered all police stations to take precautions against the Iranian gangs.
The rare order was issued in the form of written notice.
Police said ties among gang members tend not to be strong, even within the same group. While they talk with each other via cellphone, they never tell their identities or addresses to those within the same group, police said.
"As ties among the members of the same group tend to be loose, it is difficult to grasp the entire picture of the group," said an official of the international investigation section of Aichi prefectural police.
"Due to the seizure of the 13 Moshi moshi denwa last month, the trouble may well subside for the time being," said a prefectural police official.
But some within the police are not convinced
"It is meaningless if we cannot arrest those who caused the incidents," said another police official.(IHT/Asahi: August 22,2007)
"moshi, moshi" is how everyone answers their phone in Japan... this could prove confusing for dialing the wrong number