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Japan must help fight terrorism by plugging financial loophole

The Yomiuri Shimbun/ANN | Friday, Oct 17, 2014

JAPAN - To prevent the global spread of terrorist activities, Japan must play its part by taking effective measures.

The government submitted to the current extraordinary Diet session a bill to freeze the assets of internationally active terrorists in this country.

It is aimed at financially containing the terrorists' activities.

Subject to the restrictions under the new law are 360 people and 89 organisations, including those related to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, which once ruled in Afghanistan, that the UN Security Council's Sanctions Committee and other entities have designated as terrorists and terrorist groups on the basis of Security Council resolutions.

The bill forbids those designated people and organisations from, for instance, withdrawing money from their savings and bank accounts or selling real estate without obtaining permission from Tokyo or other prefectural public safety commissions.

It also prohibits people from engaging in economic transactions with those whom they know are designated terrorists.

The new law may prove effective in preventing terrorists who are lying low in Japan from receiving financial backing from supporters or from converting their assets into cash.

The government also plans to bolster its surveillance system against money laundering by revising a law on the prevention of the transfer of criminal proceeds.

Japan has been criticised for the tepid measures it has taken against terrorist financing.

Terrorists' financial transactions between Japan and foreign countries are restricted under the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law, but there is no law restricting domestic transactions by terrorists.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international group that evaluates measures taken by countries against money laundering and terrorism financing, made a pointed reference to Japan in June, issuing an unusual statement calling on Japan to promptly improve related legislation in line with international standards.

Constant vigilance needed

If things are left unchecked, Japanese financial institutions could be considered widely as a "loophole in terrorism financing", and they may lose their international credibility.

Needless to say, measures against terrorism to be taken only from the financial standpoint will be insufficient. It is important to trace terrorists' movements and expose them.

Constant vigilance to detect any connection between international terrorist groups and Japanese people also is a must.

With regard to the Islamic State, a militant Islamic organisation against which the international community is carrying out sweeping operations, the Metropolitan Police Department is investigating a university student who allegedly attempted to go to Syria to join the group as a combatant.

He is being questioned on suspicion of preparing to privately engage in military action against a foreign country. A former university professor was reportedly involved in the student's suspected plan of going to Syria.

Meanwhile, the government has postponed the submission of a bill to the Diet to revise the Law on Punishment of Organised Crimes, which centers on the creation of provisions on conspiracy and is aimed at punishing terrorists and criminal syndicates planning serious crimes.

As the FATF has called on Japan to improve related legislation, that revision will be subject to future examination.

As Japan will host the summit meeting of the group of major nations in 2016 and the Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo in 2020, security preparations must be fortified.

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