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At the Japanese government’s request, Brazil has indicted two Brazilian nationals in connection with crimes committed in Japan. Brazilian authorities have been sent the investigation materials needed to proceed with trials. If the suspects are found guilty, they will be punished under the Brazilian penal code.

Flight overseas by criminals has caused distress to the families of crime victims. Proxy punishment procedures will help unravel the truth of the crimes committed by foreigners who have left Japan and alleviate the distress of victims’ families.

Both defendants in Brazil are Brazilians of Japanese descent. The first case involves a man charged in a 1999 hit-and-run incident that resulted in the death of a high school girl in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture. The second man is charged with the 2005 robbery and murder of a restaurant owner, also in Hamamatsu, and with attempted arson.

According to the National Police Agency, 656 foreigners suspected of committing crimes had left Japan as of the end of 2006 — including 291 Chinese and 92 Brazilians.

The use of proxy punishment procedures may serve to deter crime, but as the hit-and-run case shows, it may take time before an indictment is issued. The Japanese government must first determine the country in which a suspect is residing and then hand over investigation materials to the country’s government through diplomatic channels.

At present, Japan has extradition treaties only with the United States and South Korea. One way to speed up criminal investigations between Japan and other countries is to conclude treaties for cooperation in investigations. Under such treaties, Japan’s investigative authorities would be in direct contract with their counterparts overseas, thus skipping diplomatic channels.

A more helpful approach would be to improve conditions for foreigners living here. For example, more than 300,000 Brazilian nationals are in Japan. Improving their employment and education opportunities and helping them to become true members of their communities would go a long way toward reducing crime.

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