Tens of millions in ‘lost’ cash found

SENDAI (Kyodo) Rescue workers and citizens have turned in to authorities tens of millions of yen in cash found in the rubble-strewn tsunami-hit areas of the Tohoku region, police said Saturday.

While police and local governments are pessimistic about finding the original owners, unless the money was found with some form of identification, survivors are calling on authorities to use it to help in the reconstruction of the ravaged areas.

Under law, people who find money can keep it if the original owners do not come forward within the three-month custodial period. When people who find it give up their claim or fail to show up to receive it within two months after the expiration of the period, ownership will be transferred to prefectural governments or the owners of the property where the money was found.

According to the police in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, police stations receive everyday on average several hundred items, containing cash.

Miyagi police said money has only been returned to the owners in less than 10 percent of the cases. A senior officer said, “It is impossible to return cash unless it is found inside a wallet together with an ID.”

Shigeko Sasaki, 64, who is currently living in a shelter in Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, said, “I want anybody picking up money to donate it to disaster-hit areas instead of keeping it for themselves.”

Kenji Sato, 65, in Onagawa, also in Miyagi, said it is acceptable for people who find money and report it to the police to eventually keep it “because it means they have good will.”

Takehiko Yamamura, head of the Disaster Prevention System Institute, urged authorities to set new measures to handle the matter, such as extending the three-month holding period and special permission to open a safe to determine the owner.