Japanese police arrested a 27-year-old man on board a plane Tuesday as he was being deported from the Philippines for allegedly operating an illegal manga-viewing website that hosted copies of popular comics such as "One Piece."
Romi Hoshino, who had been wanted over copyright infringement for running the now-closed pirate site Manga-Mura, was sent back from the Philippines, where he was detained in July while on his way to Hong Kong, at the request of Japanese authorities.
Hoshino allegedly headed the operation of the website, which is believed to have caused over 300 billion yen ($2.8 billion) damage to the manga industry by carrying unauthorized image files of popular pieces.
Hoshino was arrested on suspicion of uploading image files of "One Piece" without permission around May 29, 2017, in conspiracy with others, the police said.
"As for whether to admit to the crime, I will decide after I talk to a lawyer," the police quoted him as saying.
Three people other than Hoshino have already been indicted over the operation of Manga-Mura, which was shut down in April 2018, and the police are trying to clarify their roles in the operation, as well as advertising schemes.
Hoshino said in an interview with Kyodo News on Monday at an immigration facility in Manila that he had left Japan because he was offered a business opportunity, among other reasons, and had no intention of fleeing.
He declined to reveal details of the case as he is facing trial.
Hoshino entered the Philippines in May 2018 after being questioned by Japanese police on a voluntary basis. Since then, he has been back and forth between such places as Hong Kong and Thailand, according to investigative sources.
Hoshino denied involvement in the operation of Manga-Mura during the initial investigation around the spring of last year, the sources said.
Earlier this month, four major Japanese publishers filed a damages lawsuit with a US district court in New York against operators of three similar pirated manga-viewing websites that had uploaded unauthorized copies of popular manga titles, such as "Attack on Titan."
Although those websites were not accessible as of Tuesday, the Content Overseas Distribution Association, an anti-piracy organization in Tokyo, pointed out it is extremely difficult to eradicate content piracy as there are numerous websites similar to Manga-Mura and the like.