International crime syndicate 'steal €11m in just three hours from cash machines'
An international crime syndicate are suspected of stealing over 1.4bn yen( €11m) from cash machines in Japan in less than three hours.
The theft involved thousands of co-ordinated withdrawals, with as many as 100 people working together using forged credit cards.
The thieves are believed to have illegally obtained bank account details from a bank in South Africa.
The group targeted 1,400 ATMs in convenience stores using the fake cards, each making a single withdrawal of 100,000 yen (€814), the maximum withdrawal allowed.
A local newspaper, The Yomiuri Shimbun, reported that the withdrawals began just after 5am last Sunday May 15, with the last one made just before 8am the same day.
The thieves targeted cash machines in the capital Tokyo and 16 other prefectures, according to a local news agency Kyodo News.
Japanese police are trying to establish how the credit card information was obtained.
Transaction data retrieved from the cash machines suggests that the criminals used information for 1,600 credit cards issued by the South African bank, which has not been named.
Reports suggest that members of the gang may no longer be in Japan. By using cards that were issued in a different country from the one in which the fraud took place - and on a day of the week when banks were closed - they were probably able to buy themselves enough time to leave the country before their crime was discovered.
Japan is the latest victim of a string of ATM heists using credit cards forged using leaked data. In one case, thieves withdrew 4.5bn yen (€36.6m) in 26 countries, including Japan, in 2012 and 2013, the Yomiuri said.