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Fraud, tax evasion possibly fueled record amount of lost cash handed over to Tokyo police

Shukan Bunshun Mar. 2
Shukan Bunshun Mar. 2

TOKYO (TR) In 2013, announcer Christel Takigawa gave a presentation to the International Olympic Committee in which she claimed that the honesty of Japan’s people was one reason for Tokyo to host the Olympic Games in 2020. “Last year, more than 30 million U.S. dollars in lost cash was turned in to Tokyo police stations,” she said.

For 2015, that figure reached 3.6 billion yen (31.35 million U.S. dollars), the largest since 1990, when 3.5 billion yen was handed over to Tokyo Metropolitan Police.

To many Japanese — and news outlets like Bloomberg News — the record perfectly exemplifies the claim of Takikawa. But, reports weekly tabloid Shukan Bunshun (Mar. 2), there may be a dark side to the record haul.

A police reporter tells the tabloid that with so many non-cash means of payment now possible it is surprising that the amount of cash rose to a record. “In 2001, East Japan Railway introduced the Suica [rechargeable payment] card, and then you have integrated circuit cards and payments via smartphone,” the reporter says. “In this so-called ‘cashless’ era, it is a wonder that such an amount of cash was turned over.”

In 1991, the figure dropped off significantly. Then, over the next few years, it stabilized before eventually reaching a low of 2.6 billion yen in 2009.

So what happened over the past seven years?

An investigative source says that the uptick in returned cash can be seen as a delayed result of the reduction in the number of crimes committed in the capital. In 2002, the number of crimes reached a post-war high of three million before steadily falling each year thereafter.

But there is one other thing of note: Of the 3.6 billion yen, only 2.7 billion yen was returned to its owners, with the remainder going unclaimed. According to Clause 240 of the Civil Code, the finder of a lost item is entitled to it if the original owner cannot be located within a three-month period.

The aforementioned investigative source links the record return to criminal activity, saying the above-mentioned requirement is a hindrance to criminals, who obtained the cash via illegal means, in coming forward.

One type of crime mentioned by the source is remittance fraud. According to the National Police Agency, the number of such fraud cases rose to 2,032 in 2016, an increase of 153 over the year before. (Though the figure is down from a recent high of 2,616 in 2013.)

“Criminal groups engaging in bank transfer fraud hide cash in various locations in order to retrieve it later,” says the source. “So, if [the money] is lost in a fraud or via tax evasion, the owner will keep silent.”

Source: “Genkin no otoshimono nenkan 36 oku-en wa kako saiko-gaku,” Shukan Bunshun (Mar. 2)