Gangsters, Grandmothers and Gold: Japan’s New Crime Wave

Sometimes the perpetrators are gangsters. Sometimes they are rather less accustomed to the criminal life. In one case, the ringleader of a middle-aged, female crime ring was said to be a 66-year-old woman.
An old-fashioned crime is experiencing a resurgence in Japan: gold smuggling. The authorities say they are contending with a startling rise in the amount of gold being brought illegally into the country. The smugglers – an array of professional criminals and enterprising amateurs – profit by dodging import duties and taxes, in some cases worth millions of dollars. Arrests have jumped 40-fold in just a few years.
The smuggling has gained national attention because of a spate of high-profile episodes, including a brazen gold robbery by thieves dressed as police officers; the seizure of multi-million-dollar gold cargoes from fishing boats and private jets; and the foiling of the smuggling ring the police have said was organized by a 66-year-old housewife.
Crime rates in Japan are among the world’s lowest and have been falling further as the population ages. But some nonviolent crimes, like shoplifting or embezzlement, have remained more common than other offenses – say, murder or armed robbery.

This post was published at NY Times