Alleged Kansai conman hid GPS in rental car he later stole

KOBE, JAPAN -- A self-described investor was slapped with a fresh arrest warrant on suspicion of stealing a luxury car he had earlier rented and secretly stashed a GPS device in to track its location after returning it, according to an announcement by Hyogo Prefectural Police on June 12.

Tomohiro Kawanishi, 36, of Joto Ward in the city of Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, western Japan, was rearrested on suspicion of theft, an individual familiar with the case said. Kawanishi, said to be the leader of an Osaka-based street racing group, allegedly employed a number of underhand methods to steal, joyride and resell cars.

In January, the suspect is said to have stolen a luxury car he had previously rented while it was out on loan to a different customer. The car was owned by a firm based in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, in western Japan that specializes in loaning high-end vehicles. Prefectural police have arrested another man who they believe conspired in the crime on the same suspicion, and also rearrested one other man.

According to police, Kawanishi and others concealed a GPS device in the car when he rented it. Before returning the vehicle he is believed to have had the keys copied, then used the hidden gadget to track down and swipe the vehicle. The model he stole typically sells new for around 8 million yen.

In May this year, Kawanishi was arrested by police on suspicion of a separate theft relating to an incident in Yamagata, Yamagata Prefecture, northwest Japan. The suspect is said to have contacted a 58-year-old company employee for permission to test-drive a car the man was exhibiting for sale in an online auction. Kawanishi then reportedly stole the vehicle and attempted to make his getaway in the prefecture but was later arrested. Police said the suspect abandoned the vehicle when it ran out of gas.

Following other crimes, including alleged car theft under the pretense of seeking a test-drive in nearby Akashi, Hyogo Prefectural Police are pursuing the suspect over a number of other possible offenses.

In November 2018, papers accusing Kawanishi of committing speeding offences contravening the Road Traffic Act were sent to prosecutors, after he allegedly drove at around 280 kilometers per hour on an expressway in the city of Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture.