Switzerland Pockets Illegal Japanese Loan Profits
Thursday, September 2, 2004 Posted: 10:36 AM JST
Swiss authorities are preparing to seize about 61 million Swiss francs (5.2 billion yen) deposited in a Swiss bank account by Susumu Kajiyama, head of a Japanese loan shark group reports the Daily Yomiuri today. The authorities decided to confiscate the funds as profits from illegal money lending at illegally high rates of interest after the account was suspected of being used for money laundering. Because Japanese authorities failed to act, these funds, illegally obtained from naive Japanese, will now fall in Swiss hands.
Zurich announced last December that it had frozen the bank account. They asked that anyone who objected to the seizure should do so by Aug. 26. Apparently Swiss authorities unofficially asked the Japanese Justice Ministry to request the return of the money. But Japan failed to respond.
Because of the Japanese silence the funds will most probably remain in Switzerland and be used in cantonal and national budgets. Reason given for Japan's silence is that there is no legal arrangement between Japan and Switzerland in regards to such funds.
This is terribly negligent. This money should have been seized by Japan and returned to the victims of the illegal lending, or used to fight the practices of loan sharks.
According to some estimates more than a quarter of Japanese are indebted to loan sharks who charge ridiculously high interest rates. The money is easy to get and virtually impossible to repay. Several years ago I interviewed a young husband and father who for years had been addicted to pachinko gambling. He had no trouble obtaining money from loan sharks. They even gave him a bank card, so he could draw money anytime. "It felt like it was my own money," he told me about the card. I have spoken with countless former business owners who now secretly live in city parks to escape from violent attacks by mobsters after they were unable to repay such loans. To protect their families they keep their whereabouts even secret to them.
Last August the National Police Agency announced that the number of people who fell victim to suspected fraud, violence and extortion linked to illegal money lending grew 22.1% compared with the year before. There were a record 202,690 cases between January and June of this year. The amount of suspected illegal lending and fraud totaled a record 22.24 billion yen according to the NPA. That is an increase of 28.1% over last year.
Japan clearly has a problem here, with many millions of ordinary Japanese getting victimized and being drawn into a nightmare. However, the Justice Ministry's lame response to the Swiss case clearly shows that officials are not concerned. Shame on them.
Keywords: opinion_item crime finance society
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