Stay alert against shadowy activities of organized crime groups

The peaceful lives of ordinary citizens must not be threatened by antisocial behavior. It is necessary to remain vigilant against organized crime groups and work to weaken them.

It has been 30 years since the Antigang Law came into effect in March 1992. Under the law, organized crime syndicates were identified as antisocial groups for the first time, and it became possible to restrict activities that are difficult to detect under the Penal Code, such as members of organized crime groups and others pressing dining establishments to pay protection money.

Through several revisions of the law since then, a system has been introduced that holds the heads of organized crime groups and others legally responsible for systematic money-collecting by the groups, while another system has been put in place to designate organized crime groups that have repeatedly attacked companies and individuals as particularly dangerous organizations so as to strengthen crackdowns on them.

Membership in organized crime groups, which stood at about 90,000 nationwide when the law took effect, fell to about 24,000 by the end of last year, with more than 5,000 organizations having been dissolved. The effect of the law can be called significant.

Another major factor that has weakened organized crime groups is that awareness of the need to eliminate gangs became widespread among the people. The activities of organized crime groups and their members have been greatly restricted as companies and other entities have refused to accept their bank accounts, credit cards and real estate lease contracts.

Local governments have also brought into effect ordinances banning the provision of profits to organized crime groups. Under these circumstances, many organized crime groups have begun to seek funds through illegal drug trafficking and special fraud such as bank transfer scams targeting the elderly.

The amount of damage from special fraud has reached about ¥30 billion a year. Police and other authorities are urging people not to answer suspicious phone calls, but many elderly people continue to become victims. To cut off the flow of money to organized crime groups, it is essential to thoroughly crack down on such crimes.

There have been civil trial cases in which victims of special fraud involving members of organized crime groups demanded damages from senior gang members under the provisions of the Antigang Law. Last year, the Tokyo District Court ordered Sumiyoshi-kai senior members and others to pay nearly ¥500 million. Documents provided by the police were used to prove the case.

There are surely people who cannot bring themselves to file lawsuits for fear of retaliation by organized crime groups. It is vital to devise a system in which victims can file lawsuits without fearing for their safety, with the support from the police, bar associations and other entities.

It has been worrisome in recent years that significant crimes have been committed by antisocial groups to which the Antigang Law does not specifically apply. Some young people become involved in special fraud at the behest of members of organized crime groups. These groups apparently carry on their shadowy activities while using sophisticated means to conceal their involvement.

The means by which organized crime groups acquire funds are also becoming more diverse, through such measures as using the internet to invest in crypto assets. It is important to review measures against such activities in response to the changing times and society.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 8, 2022)