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Sunday, Aug. 1, 2010


Globalization of crime

Japanese criminals, too, are becoming more internationally minded. According to a white paper released by the National Police Agency on July 23, domestic criminal organizations are forming partnerships with overseas crime syndicates to smuggle drugs and launder money, and foreign groups are increasingly operating within Japan.

In recent years a European group has carried out jewelry heists, a mainly Nigerian group fenced electronic goods purchased with fake credit cards, and a multinational ring of criminals from Pakistan, Cameroon and Sri Lanka stole and disassembled cars and machinery to ship outside of Japan.

Even furikome sagi ("send me money!") fraud is being internationalized. Swindlers in China are taking advantage of cheap Internet phone calls to target gullible victims in Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore. Japanese nationals lured to China by the prospect of good jobs are used to call Japan and trick people into sending money by bank transfer. In one such case, calls netted some ¥17 million from 13 prefectures; police arrested seven Chinese and nine Japanese receiving such transfers at ATMs in Japan. Catching the ringleaders is hampered by lack of resources, varying jurisdictions and the absence of an extradition treaty with China. However, an office was set up within the National Police Agency in February to concentrate on crimes involving non-Japanese.

Domestic furikome fraud continues to evolve. The most recent variation involves a fake policeman calling to say that information in one's bank account has leaked and money has been withdrawn. The target is then asked to turn over his old cash card (and secret PIN number) to a bank employee who will be coming to his home. The fake bank employee uses the card and number to withdraw money from the account.

Of course, the national custom of carrying cash rather than credit cards makes Japanese travelers prime targets of crime abroad. In the most recent example, in July an Air France flight attendant was arrested on suspicion of stealing cash and jewelry from first-class passengers sleeping on flights from Asia to Paris. According to a French official, Japanese passengers in particular were ideal prey as they travel with lots of euros and yen.

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