Posts Tagged ‘National Police Agency’

Police rewards result in arrests, and some frustration

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Not so easy money: Wanted posters outside koban near Okachimachi Station

The idea of offering “rewards” for information leading to the arrest of a criminal fugitive didn’t really take off in Japan until the Lindsay Hawker murder case. In 2009, two years after the young English teacher was killed, the police offered a ¥10 million bounty for any leads, and five months later her killer was apprehended thanks to several tips. According to media reports the reward was divided among four persons. Previously, the prevailing wisdom was that offering monetary incentives to the public for helping police catch suspects was mercenary and thus unacceptable, but results are results, and the system now seems firmly in place after the recent series of arrests of suspects in the Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attack of 1995.

The three remaining Aum fugitives have all been captured in the last six months, two of them since the National Police Agency increased the reward for useful information from ¥3 million to ¥10 million in February. There has been speculation that the increase was actually occasioned by the arrest of the first Aum suspect, Makoto Hirata, in December. The police subsequently intensified their search for the other two fugitives, which the public had every right to believe had previously been lax given the almost comical circumstances surrounding Hirata’s surrender. However, old attitudes die hard, and the reward system is still in a state of evolution. For one thing, two terms are being used interchangeably, hoshokin and kenshokin, both of which also mean “prize.” Perhaps the authorities can’t decide because they feel the two words send the wrong message.

The Metropolitan Police Agency won’t release the names of the informants who may receive the rewards, though the media has been busy trying to describe them. Information about the whereabouts of Naoko Kikuchi was received by the police the morning of June 3, and they arrested her later that day, though others have said they offered tips about Kikuchi much earlier. Apparently, someone, reportedly a neighbor, brought the tip to the police, though it’s not clear if that person will receive a reward.

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Hidden pachinko industry workers make some noise

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Getting paid: A patron exchanges prizes for cash outside a pachinko parlor

Pachinko isn’t the huge money maker it used to be. At around the turn of the century, it was a ¥30 trillion a year business, putting it on the same revenue level as medical care, but according to the Nihon Yugi Kanren Jigyo Kyokai, the pachinko industry association, pachinko parlors now pull in about ¥10 trillion less, give or take a few trillion. Ten years ago there were about 17,000 parlors nationwide. Now there’s only about 12,500.

Unlike horses and certain other racing sports, pachinko is not approved by the government for gambling purposes, but the industry has traditionally gotten around this obstacle by offering prizes to winners. These prizes can then be exchanged for cash at secretive little booths (keihin kokan-jo) located outside the premises, since having the booths inside the parlors themselves would be against the law. The businesses that run the booths sells the prizes to a wholesaler who then redistributes them back to pachinko parlors.

Organized crime elements used to be centrally involved in this buy-back cycle, but in the early ’90s the police managed to lock them out of it and set up their own organizations to administer the business. It’s been reported in the past that a portion of the money these schemes make go to the National Police Agency for things like pension funds. A prepaid card system for pachinko parlors was introduced in the ’90s that made it easier for the police and tax authorities to monitor revenues.

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Post-disaster business opportunities attracting wrong kind of enterprises

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

There's a lot of work to be done in post-3/11 Tohoku and organized crime wants a piece of the action. (Satoko Kawasaki photo/The Japan Times)

Like ants to sugar, underworld organizations have been making their way to the towns and cities of the Tohoku region that were destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11. The cost of cleanup and reconstruction is estimated to be some ¥15 trillion, so there seems to be enough sugar to go around, but according to the Sankei Shimbun, the boryokudan (organized crime), or yakuza, seem determined to secure as big a share as they can.

Police in the area are reporting that since early April two “unknown” organizations have been making the rounds of five evacuation centers in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, handing out plain brown envelopes to evacuees. Each envelope contains ¥30,000 in cash. Local officials have cautioned individual representatives of these organizations, saying that their way of distributing the money is “unfair,” and that it would be better for them to give the officials the money so that it could be distributed more properly. This request was ignored in Ishinomaki. However, the same groups also delivered a pile of envelopes each containing ¥30,000 to the disaster headquarters of another city in Miyagi, Minami Sanriku, for distribution. Altogether, the “contributions” in the two cities total somewhere between ¥30 and ¥50 million.

Continue reading about yakuza in post-quake Tohoku →

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