Crime World Wide - 419 Fraud

Cross-border crime is an unnecessary aspect of the globalization of the economy and communications. 

Law enforcement authorities around the world are on the alert for the "419 fraud," also known as the "Nigerian Letter.

The scam originated with a Nigerian-based network that has since gone quite global. Normally, e-mails are sent to potential victims overseas, inviting them to invest in a money-laundering scheme or some other business scheme. 

Receivers who show an interest are asked to travel to a third country or remit a considerable "investment" to a bank account in a foreign country. Once the money is in the account, the scammers immediately transfer the money to an account in a different country. 

Investigators in each country get to work only on one piece of the puzzle, so to speak. They are helpless to track down suspects who remain in their home countries. Cases of 419 fraud cases started to be reported in Japan a few years ago. 

One vengeance of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) is a crime ring nicknamed the Pink Panthers. They are jewelry thieves believed to be typically from the former Yugoslavia and have robbed numerous jewelry stores around the world, including Europe, the Middle East and Tokyo. 

Alarmed by this trend, the National Police Agency used the expression "globalization of crime" for the first time in this year's white paper. 

In the past, foreign criminals in Japan were typically groups of relatives and those from the same region, or those who fled to their home countries after committing the crimes. 

But recently, international criminal organizations of an entirely different nature have begun sensitive Japan. Also quite disturbing is the recent spread of cyber crimes and crimes related to child pornography. The threats of drug trafficking and international terrorism are growing, too. 

Can any national police force actually fight crimes that cross national borders? 

So far, more than 800 people who have committed crimes in Japan have eluded capture by fleeing the country. Even when Interpol is concerned, the outcome of the investigation varies from country to country, and arrests and extraditions are rather rare. 

For successful operations that cross national borders, Japanese law enforcement authorities must forge close working relations with their complement in as many countries as possible. 

For example, if a Japanese citizen is kidnapped, and a payment demand has been confirmed coming from abroad, Japanese police should be able to ask investigators in that country to trace the call. 

Close international collaboration will also enable concurrent pursuit of members of a criminal group scattered around the world. 

Japan already has two-sided treaties on mutual assistance in criminal matters with such countries as the United States, China and South Korea. But the treaties need to be multilateral. 

To create a worldwide law enforcement network, the functions of Interpol, whose members consist of 188 nations and regions, need to be unbreakable. But criminal laws vary from country to country, as does the authority and capacity of law enforcers. Obviously, the rule of each country must be respected, which renders really close collaboration a bit of a challenge. 

But we must remember that criminals often slip through this sort of "ambiguity." 

It is time for the international community to take a good, hard look at the traditional ideas of law enforcement and determine what needs to be updated.

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