Resolution Aiming at Preventing and Recovering Damage, and Supporting Victims of Organized Crimes Targeting the Socially Vulnerable, Notably Special Fraud
In Japan, the total amount of loss by property offenses shows no sign of significant decline. Among them, fraud is by far the most prominent. Particularly, special fraud causes significant damage to society. Special fraud is a collective term that refers to a scam that defrauds random unacquainted persons out of money or other property over the phone or other communication tools by leading the victims to transfer money to a designated account or by other means, which includes various bank transfer frauds (such as “It’s me” fraud, billing fraud, advance-fee loan scam, refund scam) and other special frauds (such as those under the guise of proposing a contract for a financial instruments transaction, providing information on how to win at gambling, or providing a dating service). A major characteristic of such fraud is organized crime, represented by systematic perpetration targeting particularly the socially vulnerable, such as the elderly, with detailed planning and tactical role-sharing in order to trap victims and prevent detection.
The number of confirmed special fraud cases in 2017 totaled 18,212, and the amount of damage totaled more than 39.47 billion yen, and the number of cases have been increasing without any sign of dropping. Victims, who are mostly elderly persons, are tricked out of huge amounts of money with extremely cunning schemes using services and tools provided by private companies, which are designed in a manner to exclude the victims’ correct judgment by taking advantage of their credulity and insecure feelings.
For elderly persons, many of whom feel uneasy about their health and lives, an economic foundation is the prerequisite of their lives and physical safety. Among the elderly victims of fraud, there are those who despaired of their future due to losing a great amount of wealth they had saved over the years, and consequently, some of them even lost health both mentally and physically. Thus, special fraud does not only inflict financial damage on victims, but also causes great psychological suffering to them, which is a significant violation of human rights.
On the other hand, most criminal organizations perpetrating special fraud cleverly conceal the entire picture of their organizations by extreme job splitting under absolute secrecy, and therefore, it is very rare that the investigation agency succeeds in tracing the ringleaders despite its intense investigations. In many cases, it is difficult for victims to recover their loss because the criminal organizations cunningly hide their financial gains. The current civil and criminal judicial system in Japan is extremely powerless against criminal organizations committing special fraud, and criminal organizations are free to flourish without prosecution. In other words, the ringleaders of criminal organizations have succeeded in building a stable system that enables them to continue making safely and stably a huge criminal income of tens of billions of yen annually without being brought to justice under the civil and criminal laws.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA), whose mission is to defend basic human rights and realize social justice, cannot tolerate such a situation at all. Considering that special fraud is a despicable criminal act that inflicts on victims enormous financial and mental damage, the JFBA calls for the national government, local governments, companies, and other related bodies to take necessary actions respectively for enacting the following measures in order to practically guarantee victims the “rights to be respected for their individual dignity and be assured of treatment appropriate for their individual dignity,” which victims of special fraud are supposed to enjoy:
1. In order to avoid causing damage from special fraud, each company should identify the services and tools being used in crime, and take preventive measures so that they will not be used in crime. Further, in order to promote preventive measures at the industry level, each industry group should share actual crime cases in which such services and tools are used, and also share the best practices to prevent them. At the same time, such preventive measures should be implemented in a manner available to attorneys who attempt to recover damages at the request of victims. In addition, the national and local governments should encourage such industry- or corporate-level actions as necessary, and make efforts toward the strengthening of measures against special fraud which targets mostly elderly people.
2. In order to prevent and recover special fraud damage, national and local governments should allocate enough budgets and personnel commensurate with the severity of the damage caused by special fraud, expand their investigative systems related to special fraud, and promote possible investigations and crackdowns to the utmost through appropriate investigative procedures.
3. The national government should establish an effective damage recovery system with reference to examples of such systems to be applied in criminal proceedings that are adopted by other countries with proven effectiveness, such as a damage compensation order system in criminal proceedings which is applicable to property offenses, and methods to collect evidence and determine the location of offenders’ properties during such proceedings, in order to recover damage from these crimes.
4. In order to support and further promote and expand the freezing of deposit accounts, etc. which have been implemented as voluntary efforts by financial institutions, the national government should consider the introduction of a legal system that enables victims to effectively recover damages from fraud as an organized crime targeting socially vulnerable people.
5. In response to the globalization of organized crimes, the national government should strengthen international cooperation to recover damages from criminal incomes transferred abroad through confiscation by overseas authorities.
6. In order to intensify the efforts listed above, the national government should promote measures against special fraud in close cooperation between public and private sectors by formulating a basic plan for measures against special fraud at the Ministerial Meeting Concerning Measures Against Crime, and by instructing relevant government agencies to respond to the plan.
The JFBA has resolved to work together with the national government, local governments, companies, and other relevant bodies, and also to act by itself with its utmost effort to prevent and recover damage, and support victims of organized crimes targeting socially vulnerable people, notably special fraud.
October 5, 2018
Japan Federation of Bar Associations