The Tokyo District Court on Thursday rejected a demand from two theft victims that Chiba Bank replace money withdrawn from their accounts with stolen passbooks and personal seals.

The two had also called for the Tokyo Bankers Association to strengthen its supervision of member banks to ensure better identification checks.

Yoko Saito, 70, and Harumi Nagatomo, 57, filed the lawsuit in December 2002 with 11 others against nine banks. Seven of the 13 have reached out-of-court settlements with six banks.

Saito and Nagatomo claimed that thieves were able to withdraw money from their accounts because the bank had lax security measures, relying on the traditional use of “hanko” seals as authorization and neglecting to thoroughly check the passbook users’ identities. At banks, cash can be withdrawn by showing a passbook and a hanko stamp.

Presiding Judge Makoto Kaiami said Chiba Bank was not at fault as its clerks had followed bank transaction procedures.

Saito’s two account passbooks, two hanko seals and a health insurance certificate were stolen from her residence in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, in April 2002.

It was later discovered that a group of Chinese men — police figure them to be Snakehead gang members — picked a lock to enter Saito’s home and steal the items.

But Saito did not notice that her home had been broken into until the men returned two days later and took larger possessions, such as her personal computer.

When she discovered that the banking items had also disappeared, Saito contacted Chiba Bank and found that 7 million yen had been withdrawn from her account.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.