The Philippines is seeking to have local criminal charges against some of the four Japanese believed to be behind a string of robberies across Japan dismissed, a Justice Department spokesman said Wednesday, as the Southeast Asian country seeks to deport all four to Japan.

The pending charges have left it unclear whether the suspects can all be swiftly transferred to Japan from the immigration facility in Manila where they are being held.

Philippine police and immigration authorities inspect an immigration facility in Manila where four Japanese robbery suspects are being held on Jan. 31, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Philippine police)(Kyodo)

Court hearings have been planned for Thursday and Friday based on a motion filed by the department, and there is a possibility that the court will drop the charges, the spokesman said.

However, the spokesman said he cannot say for sure when the suspects' repatriation will occur as it depends on the court's decision.

Also Wednesday, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla told reporters that the Philippines is seeking to deport all four suspects together at the request of Japanese authorities.

The minister told Kyodo News the previous day that Manila was considering deporting the four at the same time, while expressing hope to "solve the problem" by next Monday.

The Japanese government said Wednesday that Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will visit Japan from next Wednesday for talks with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

The four men are believed to have remotely coordinated a series of robberies in Japan that began last year. They are believed to have run the operation out of the immigration facility using an encrypted messaging app.

Photo taken on Jan. 30, 2023, shows a Bureau of Immigration facility in Manila. (Kyodo)

Japan has sought their transfer after police obtained arrest warrants on suspicion of theft in connection with a scam targeting elderly people in Japan.

Among the four, Yuki Watanabe was allegedly one of the leaders of the fraud group, which stole some 3.5 billion yen ($27 million) in around 2,300 cases between November 2018 and June 2020, according to police.

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