Victims of loan scam apply for Swiss cash

Kyodo News

Prosecutors began procedures Friday to distribute funds seized by Swiss authorities to victims of an illegal high-interest loan scam run by a group affiliated with the Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza syndicate.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office began accepting applications from victims after authorities in Zurich in May delivered about ¥2.9 billion they seized as unlawful profits by the group, called Goryokai, from a Credit Suisse bank account.

Japan and Switzerland had earlier agreed to divide between them around 58 million Swiss francs (¥6 billion) seized by Swiss authorities from the bank account, with Japan’s portion to be returned to the loan-shark victims.

The prosecutors will notify about 34,000 people with contact addresses who are believed to be the victims of the lender about procedures for claiming the money.

They will also call on other potential victims to apply to receive money by disclosing information, such as the branch and the account numbers to which deposits were made, on the Web site of the prosecutor’s office and other venues.

The number of victims is expected to total at least 40,000, according to the prosecutors.

This is the first time Japan has taken a step based on a law enacted in 2006 to compensate for damage suffered by victims of criminal activities.

Eligible to file are victims who paid interest higher than allowed by law to the loan-shark between 1988 and around August 2003. The lender was operated by Susumu Kajiyama, 58.

The ex-senior Goryokai member, dubbed the loan-shark tycoon, is serving time in prison for money-laundering and lending at interest rates higher than allowed by law.

Applicants will receive sums to compensate for damage after an assessment by authorities. Assessments will be based on evidence such as money deposit records and bank passbooks, and also on written accounts of damage suffered.

Part of the work to notify the victims and to assess damage will be contracted out to four lawyers from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, including Kazuhiko Shimokobe, 60.