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Kidnapped executive escapes

TOKYO -- A Japanese candy tycoon who was kidnapped from his bath broke his bounds Wednesday and escaped from a vacant building where gunmen had held him for nearly $6 million in cash and gold -- the largest ransom ever asked in Japan.

Katsuhisa Ezaki, 42, made his break before daylight when his abductors left him unattended in a riverside building in Osaka, Japan's second largest city, police said.

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They said the executive worked loose of the ropes that bound him, kicked down a door and fled into the streets, ending 65 hours in captivity. Two railway employees helped him to telephone authorities and his wife.

'I have escaped,' Ezaki told his wife in an emotional telephone call, police said.

During his ordeal, Ezaki told police his head was covered with a bag and he was fed juice and crackers. The kidnappers told him they werealso holding his 8-year-old daughter, which was untrue.

Ezaki said the abductors, who brandished what he believed were toy weapons, provided him with the cotton shirt and dark blue jogging suit in which he was found. He was barefoot and his face was scratched but he was otherwise unharmed, a police spokesman said.

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News reports indicated there was no payment made on the unprecedented ransom demand for 1 billion yen, worth $4.5 million. The kidnappers also asked for 100 kilograms, or 220 pounds of gold, worth about $1.28 million at current prices.

Police, who imposed a nationwide blackout on information about the case when Ezaki was seized, reported no immediate progress in locating the kidnappers.

Police said Sunday's abduction of Ezaki, the president of the Ezaki Glico Co. candy manufacturing firm, was well-planned and the gunmen were familiar with his family's habits and the layout of his house.

Two of the gunmen, their faces covered with white ski masks, first broke into the house of Ezaki's 70-year-old mother in Hyogo, near Osaka, and forced her to turn over the keys to her son's house next door.

The kidnappers then surprised Ezaki's wife, Meiko, 35, and daughter Mariko. The two females were tied up and locked in a bathroom while two other children sleeping in another room were left undisturbed.

The company president was then surprised in his bath and hustled naked to a waiting getaway car driven by the third accomplice. A few hours later, a company executive received a telephone call with the ransom demand.

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Police responded by setting up highway checkpoints and launching a dragnet in the area.

Ezaki's firm was founded by his grandfather in 1922 and last year had sales of more than $68 million. The firm is based in Osaka, and also has plants in Tokyo and on the southern island of Kyushu.

Kidnapping is a relatively rare crime in Japan. Only 27 cases were reported in the country last year.

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