Recently, I needed to transfer money abroad. Even though I have online banking, I cannot use it in this case because I have to fill out a number of extra forms. That’s nothing completely new to me, other countries I lived in have had these sort of restrictions as well. Because I knew that it was unlikely to find an English-speaking clerk at my bank’s branch office, I phoned their help line first to find out which documents I needed to bring with me.

stack of papersThe list included my cash card and seal, but no further form of ID, interestingly. Of course, I needed information as where to send the money as well: name and address of account holder and bank, IBAN and BIC,… no big deal. But then, on top of that, the bank also wanted to know a) what the money was for (or at least proof that the account overseas was mine as well) and, besides making sure that I actually have enough money for the transfer, they also wanted to know b) where I got it from. Surely, that’s none of the bank’s business, is it?

Of course it isn’t, and to their credit, they only took a brief look at the documents for my foreign account and at my salary agreement (the one I made with myself, no less) without filing or copying them. That’s a start. So, why wasting my time – and theirs – with that to begin with? Because of the Act on Prevention of Transfer of Criminal Proceeds, a new Japanese law that has come into effect last October, if I understood correctly.

Whenever I read of a law like this – or passages like the one in my work contract forbidding me to associate with yakuza – I am seriously asking myself how naive the persons who came up with that idea can possibly be. Do they really think that a hardcore criminal will be deterred by two extra hoops he has to jump through or an extra piece of paper he has to forge? Have those lawmakers never heard of international crime organisations?

Because I am pretty sure these rules are for individuals only. I can’t imagine that companies have to fill out extra forms every time they send money to a new supplier abroad. And nothing is opened faster than a company in Japan and a couple of letterbox companies elsewhere with attached bank accounts. And never mind that paypal for example doesn’t need any kind of paperwork when sending money to or receiving it from abroad.

So, what’s the point of these laws and regulations? Security is a standard excuse these days, and probably, if you can regularly present a handful of recently caught small fish to the excitable public, they will feel more secure indeed. I call it surveillance, especially of the standard, law-abiding citizen. Because the biggest criminals don’t give a shit about the law – they are well-connected to, or part of, politics anyway. In any country.