Wed, Oct 11, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Laws fail to discourage gangsterism

By Lin Yu-shun 林裕順

On Sept. 24, alleged gang members armed with clubs reportedly attacked and injured students outside the National Taiwan University campus in Taipei. However, police and prosecutors may only be able to apply the terms of the Organized Crime Prevention Act (組織犯罪防制條例).

Compared with Japan’s system for combating gangsters and its practical application, Taiwanese laws often mean the authorities have to let the big fish off the hook.

While ministers have voiced their anger over this case, prompting the National Police Agency to launch a crackdown on organized crime groups, it might amount to nothing. As long as the government lacks vision in its policy planning, there can be no hope of drastic change.

In the early 1990s, most Japanese assumed that water and security were given. However, statistics released by the Japanese National Police Agency for that period showed that one out of 10 urban residents had suffered verbal threats or violent intimidation by members of the yakuza.

Gang members employed all kinds of tricks, such as psychological intimidation, harassing people over the telephone or ganging up to threaten them.

Confronted by such tactics, defenseless members of the public and hardworking businesspeople usually found that they had no choice but to pay up.

There were, and still are, various kinds of gangsters. Some, known as keizai goro, or financial racketeers, use clever words to pose as influential financial consultants and then defraud their clients. Some demand protection fees for no good reason or intimidate people by deploying tough-looking “bouncers.” Some miscreants look for opportunities to exaggerate accidents and extort money from those involved.

Another trick is to pester people into purchasing unwanted books, magazines and other items, or force them to pay for unnecessary services.

There are loan sharks who provide high-interest loans and then cause trouble collecting debts. Some gangsters crowd into foreclosure auctions, where they employ threats to extort money or property.

There are “professional shareholders” called sokaiya who specialize in disrupting shareholders’ meetings to extort money from companies. Even if they use methods that do not employ actual or implied violence, they can instill fear in the minds of ordinary people.

However, such acts could not be punished in accordance with conventional legal norms.

The Japanese government needed a way to ensure that victims were not left “sobbing in the dark” or paying their way out of trouble, which would only embolden gangsters and help the yakuza syndicates grow stronger.

In 1991, the Japanese government drew up the Act on the Prevention of Wrongful Acts by Organized Crime Group Members, also known as the “Anti-Yakuza” law or “Anti-Boryokudan” law, which authorizes police to go onto the offensive by preventing designated gangs from committing “wrongful acts,” such as those described above, even if such acts are not actually illegal, and to intervene at the scene of disputes to prevent them from escalating.

The authorities also called upon bar associations and other civic groups to set up philanthropic organizations aimed at teaching victims how to cope with such situations, as well as offering legal advice and other services, so that officials and the general public could work together against gangsterism.

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