• The Associated Press

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The number of people arrested for Internet-linked crimes in Japan rose almost 52 percent last year to a record 3,161, the National Police Agency said Thursday.

The previous year also set a record, of 2,081 arrests, according to a report issued by the NPA, which began compiling statistics on cybercrimes in 1999.

Fraud cases linked to the Internet accounted for 45 percent, or 1,408, of the Web-linked arrests, up from 542 the previous year.

Among other major cybercrimes were 277 cases of illegal computer access, 320 of child pornography and 320 involving child prostitution.

In July, police introduced new steps, including boosting patrols of the Internet to combat the increase in such Web crimes as e-mail scams and the transfer of illegal content, like child pornography.

In one case, a 33-year-old unemployed man was arrested in September on suspicion of stealing user IDs and passwords from patrons of an Internet auction site and offering them fake goods, the report says. He allegedly swindled 860 bidders out of 150 million yen.

Four men were arrested in November for slander for allegedly superimposing a celebrity’s face on a nude picture and posting it on the Internet.

Drug haul off 50%

Customs houses confiscated 679 kg of illegal drugs in 2005, down 50 percent from the previous year, according to the Finance Ministry.

The number of confiscated tablet drugs, including Ecstasy, totaled 249,000 pills, down 42 percent, the ministry said in a report released Thursday.

A ministry official reckoned the sharp fall in numbers reflects tighter customs controls, but acknowledged that the figures do not necessary suggest drug smuggling has declined.

Of the 679 kg of drugs netted, marijuana accounted for 588 kg, down 34 percent from the previous year.

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