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The Justice Ministry urged the government Friday to step up efforts to combat economic crimes, pointing to numerous “uncertain elements” in the unpredictable and still-fragile economic recovery that may make such crimes easier to perpetrate.

The 2000 white paper on crime says Japan needs to come up with various criminal and judicial policy measures to cope with increasing economic crimes.

For the first time, the annual white paper set aside an entire chapter to the issue, a reflection of growing public concern about economic crimes — particularly prevalent since the asset-inflated bubble economy burst in the early 1990s.

The white paper was compiled by the ministry’s Research and Training Institute and approved by the Cabinet during its regular meeting Friday.

“There have been a large number of cases involving major bankruptcies and recovery of bad loans that have had a grave impact on the nation’s economy and people’s lives since the bubble burst,” the report notes.

“We cannot make any predictions as to the change of economic climate from now on,” the report says. “There are many uncertain elements in the trend of illegal economic activities, some of which are triggered by other economic activities.”

While the number of violators of income tax and corporation tax laws has fallen since the early 1990s, there is now a growing trend of offenders involved in the obstruction of execution, bidding and violation of the bankruptcy law, the report states. A rise has also been recorded in the number of violators of the antimonopoly and securities exchange laws, it says.

Although the vast majority of corporate activity-related crimes involved relatively small companies, those involving large firms were not insignificant, according to the white paper’s survey. It examined 812 cases involving 511 firms and 1,114 people found guilty during the 1989-1998 period.

Underworld members and rightists were also deeply involved in obstructing bids on properties held by failed corporations, according to the paper’s survey of 68 cases involving 124 people found guilty during the 1994-1998 period.

To enforce effective countermeasures, the white paper highlights the need to examine and introduce legislation like that seen in other countries, including harsher penalties on violators and reduced penalties for those who cooperate with authorities in investigations.

In 1999, the total number of all penal offenses increased by 213,784 from the previous year to a record 2.90 million.

However, the arrest ratio for those offenses, excluding traffic-related professional negligence, declined 4.2 percentage points to 33.8 percent — the worst in the postwar era.

The number of juvenile offenders arrested fell 8.8 percent to 201,826 in 1999. Of the total, those arrested for murder declined 5.1 percent from 117 to 111, while those arrested for robbery increased by 5 percent from 1,566 to 1,644.

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