The alleged operator of a popular website that allowed users to read pirated copies of Japanese manga comics has been arrested in the Philippines.
Romi Hoshino, also known as Zakay Romi, was taken into custody on Sunday at Ninoy Aquino International Airport following a request by the Japanese embassy, according to a statement from the Philippines Bureau of Immigration.
Hoshino, 28, is accused of operating “Manga-Mura,” a website that allowed viewers to read manga – a style of Japanese comic books and graphic novels – that had been illegally scanned and posted online.
The site was operational from January 2016 to April 2018. During that time the Philippines government said publishers claimed to have lost as much $2.9 billion (320 billion yen) in sales, according to Japan officials.
Manga is hugely popular worldwide and a cultural phenomenon in Japan. In 2016, 669 million manga books and magazines were sold in the country, according to the Japanese think tank Dentsu Innovation Institute.
Piracy is an increasing problem for many publishers and police have begun targeting website operators and scanners, the Japan Times reported last year.
A Philippines government statement described Hoshino’s activities as the “worst violation in the history of the copyright law of Japan.”
The alleged manga pirate was described as of Japanese, German and Israeli descent. It is unclear how long Hoshino had been in the Philippines, including whether he was living there or just passing through. He’s currently in a detention facility in Taguig City awaiting extradition to Japan.