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Japan’s Miura and Associate Face Murder Accusations

Times Staff Writer

A Japanese businessman initially regarded as a victim when he and his wife were shot on a Los Angeles street in 1981 was accused Thursday, along with a longtime business associate, of engineering the woman’s murder.

Police took Kazuyoshi Miura, 41, from the Tokyo Detention House, where he is already serving a six-year sentence for the attempted murder of his wife, Kazumi, in August, 1981, to police headquarters to arrest him for plotting the shooting three months later that resulted in her death. Authorities in Los Angeles filed their own murder case against Miura earlier this year.

The motive for the killing was $655,000 in insurance money, authorities say.

Named as Miura’s accomplice was Yoshikuni Okubo, 36, an Osaka native who police said graduated from USC in 1978 and who lived in Los Angeles until April, 1982. Both Miura and Okubo denied the murder accusation, police said.

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Okubo, police said, worked as Miura’s agent in Los Angeles in buying American fashions for export to Japan. He had been arrested Oct. 1 for illegal possession of a firearm.

Police charge that Okubo--at Miura’s request--shot Miura’s wife at a location designated in advance by Miura on North Fremont Street, and then, to make the incident appear to be a robbery, shot Miura in the leg in November, 1981.

Kazumi Miura, who remained in a coma until her death a year later, was flown back to Japan aboard a U.S. Air Force C-141 military hospital plane. Miura’s wound was described as minor.

Not until Japanese news media revealed in early 1984 that Miura had collected the insurance payments on his wife’s life did the businessman come under suspicion.

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Kazumi Miura’s father, Ryoji Sasaki, told reporters Thursday that he had “long awaited this day. . . . At last, we have reached this point. I hope he (Miura) will be sentenced to the maximum penalty allowed by Japanese law"--death by hanging.

His daughter was the third of Miura’s four wives. The other marriages ended in divorce.

Japanese police offered no explanation why the murder charges had been delayed so long. Last May, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner filed a murder charge against Miura in the shooting of his wife. Reiner also said Miura remains the “sole suspect” in the murder of Chizuo Shiraishi, one of Miura’s mistresses, whose body was found in Lake View Terrace in 1979 but not identified until 1984.

Japanese law permits prosecution of citizens for crimes commited overseas.

In Los Angeles, Deputy Dist. Atty. Louis K. Ito said the Japanese murder case against Miura will take precedence over any prosecution in the United States.

“Extradition is a big hurdle, so we made a commitment to lend all our support (to Japanese authorities) so they can make their case.” Ito said Japanese prosecutors have up to 20 days in which to file formal charges against Miura and Okubo.

The district attorney’s office decided to proceed with its case against Miura because “we had to,” Ito said. “If the Japanese couldn’t make their case, then Miura could walk freely into the United States if we didn’t do anything,” the prosecutor added.

In September, 1985, apparently because of a lack of evidence in the shooting incident, Tokyo prosecutors charged Miura with the attempted murder of his wife three months before she was fatally shot. Michiko Yazawa, another mistress of Miura, testified that at Miura’s request, she had struck Kazumi on the head with a hammer. But the attempt to kill her was unsuccessful.

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Both Miura and Yazawa were convicted on the attempted murder charge. Yazawa was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail. Miura appealed his six-year sentence but remained in jail.

Police told Japanese reporters that they had evidence that Miura and Okubo met in Los Angeles for two hours alone the day before Kazumi Miura was shot and that a witness had testified that Okubo at that time owned a .22-caliber rifle identical to the one that had been used to shoot the woman. They also said Okubo had no alibi for his whereabouts at the time of the crime.

Before suspicion fell upon him, Miura held repeated news conferences in Japan and distributed appeals to Japanese and American reporters protesting “rampant crime” in Los Angeles. He also mailed letters to President Reagan, Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., Mayor Tom Bradley and U.S. Ambassador Mike Mansfield protesting failure to ensure the safety of foreign tourists in the United States.

After Japanese media reported the suspicions against him, he gave repeated interviews to both television and print media here. In all of them, he denied the accusations against him.

Times staff writer Robert W. Stewart in Los Angeles contributed to this story.


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