Private Detective Industry And The Act on Protection Of Personal Information

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Japanese PIs and The Act On Protection Of Personal Information

To understand the relationship between the Japanese private detective industry and the Act on Protection of Personal Information, we will explain the Prime Incident this time.

The Prime Incident was a case where the police simultaneously busted information sources of PIs for unauthorized acquisition or leakage of personal information from 2011 to 2013.

There is a registration system, but not a licensing system, for detectives in Japan. The professional status of the detective has not been established in Japan.

PI Industry Is Not Well Perceived In Japan

Accordingly, there is no right to claim the information sources (such as resident registration, vehicle registration, mobile phone registration, etc.) required for the investigation. There has been no legislation regarding third-party disclosure to organizations that hold data on social infrastructures in Japan.

Attorneys have the authority to request information as referred to in Article 23 of the Attorney Law. On the other hand, there is no such authority in the detective industry specializing in the investigation.

Under these circumstances, the Japanese PI industry has secured various information-gathering sources to respond to the clients’ needs. However, there have been several incidents where clients abused investigative results. It resulted in the loss of many sources of information that PIs had used.

Summary Of Prime Incident

In October 2010, the Aichi Prefectural Police Department began a series of crackdowns against the Prime Agency and its related parties.

From 2011 to 2013, the police conducted a series of crackdowns against PIs’ information sources. The first arrest in this series was the Administrative Scrivener’s Office of Prime. For this reason, this incident is called the Prime Incident.

In response to a request from the Kodokai Yakuza crime syndicate, the company obtained a copy of the family register of the police inspector of the Aichi Prefectural Police Department.

They reported the names of the family members of the inspector from their Koseki family register. They learned that the inspector had a teenage daughter. The Yakuza gangster suggested an assault of the inspector’s daughter and threatened the inspector with leaking investigative information.

The Aichi Prefectural Police overreacted because the Yakuza crime syndicate threatened them. The police decided to uncover PI sources at once. The police believed that to eliminate the threats from the Yakuza gang members, they needed to eliminate PI sources that might provide information to organized crime groups.

Triggers Of The Prime Incident

The following incidents triggered the Prime Incident (the simultaneous crackdowns of PI sources by the Aichi Prefectural Police):

  • The Aichi Prefectural Police Lieutenant Intimidation Case (July 2010): Wikipedia
  • The Zushi Stalker Homicide Case (June 2012): Wikipedia

In the Aichi Prefectural Police Department intimidation case, a Yakuza gang member threatened the lieutenant in charge of the investigation after obtaining his daughter’s name.

‘I don’t know what will happen to your teenage daughter.’

The Aichi police realized that someone had investigated the Koseki family registry of the lieutenant. The police found out that a judicial scrivener subcontracted by a PI had obtained a copy of the Koseki family register.

The Aichi police thought that if they removed PI’s information sources, the Yakuza gang would be unable to access information on the Koseki family register.

In the Zushi stalker murder case, a male perpetrator hired a PI to locate the victim’s current address. Then the perpetrator killed the victim at the victim’s home and committed suicide.

Before the Prime Incident, it was legal for PIs to use sources to gather information. In the case of the Prime Incident, the Japanese government changed the interpretation of existing laws, and they banned the method of investigation using information sources.

Comprehensive Detection Of Information Sources

Prime was an administrative scrivener agency. They did not independently work for PIs but were subcontractors of the information wholesaler for PIs (AJLP, based in Nagoya).

With the arrest of Prime, the Aichi Prefectural Police expanded the investigation to include information wholesalers and other information sources. AJLP was the kingpin of information sources for PIs across Japan.

AJLP controlled a variety of information sources, including mobile phone companies, credit information centers, and government offices, as well as administrative scriveners who could obtain public registries.

AJLP didn’t conduct investigations themselves. They were intermediary brokers of confidential information sources (e.g., administrative scriveners and informants) for PIs across Japan.

Arrests Of Informants

In September 2012, three persons were arrested, including the Nagoya-based information provider, AJLP. They earned 1,270 million yen over the past five years.

The representative of AJLP was convicted and fined 2 million yen, and two employees were sentenced to a fine of 1 million yen. The criminal court convicted only the cases of fraudulent acquisition of the Koseki family register, which was used to threaten the Aichi Prefectural Police Inspector. They were  found innocent of other information leakage charges.

Various Sources Of PI Information

The Prime Incident began with the detection of information sources on Koseki family registers and resident registers. And it led to the detection of information sources such as job history, vehicle information, residential address information, marital status, income, credit information, etc.

The following are the results of individual probes of each information source.

Prime Family Register Route

In November 2011, five persons were arrested, including a PI in Yokohama, the president of Prime, a judicial scrivener, an administrative scrivener, and a former lawyer. They fraudulently obtained Koseki family registers by using administrative scriveners and judicial scriveners who had the authority to request resident certificates or a copy of Koseki family registers.

They used counterfeit invoices to hide their activities. Administrative scriveners’ associations and judicial scriveners’ associations issue special duty invoices for members. The association records when and where members use their bills. For this reason, Prime used fake job invoices to prevent fraud from being discovered by the association.

They acquired 12,500 public books over three years, generating revenues of 235 million yen. The president of Prime was sentenced to imprisonment for three years. The president of the Yokohama PI agency was sentenced to imprisonment for two years and six months. The judicial scrivener was sentenced to a fine of 2.5 million yen. The former attorney was sentenced to imprisonment for two years (four years of suspension). And the graphic designer who counterfeited the bill was sentenced to imprisonment for one year and six months (three years of suspension).

Source Of Information On Koseki Family Registers In Gunma

AJLP in Nagoya also had a family register information source in Gunma, apart from Prime Company.

In September 2012, the president of Gunma research company Bell Research, the president of SRC, a research company in Tokyo, and an accomplice administrative scrivener were arrested.

This source has also obtained more than 20,000 publicly held records. The president of SRC is a former police officer. He joined the Tokyo Administrative Scribners Association in 1978, and since around 1993, he has been a source of information on obtaining the Koseki family register.

The president of SRC earned 150 million yen in a year, and the president of Gunma PI agency Bell Research earned 450 million yen in four years. The cost of obtaining one public register was 10,000 yen.

Credit Information Route

The president of Prime and the Yokohama PI agency were rearrested in January 2012 for the unauthorized acquisition of debt information from credit bureaus. They obtained 2,200 debt records from the Japan Credit Bureau through moneylenders in Tokyo.

Apart from the Prime Incident, in April 2012, a Tokyo PI agency’s president and a moneylender who had acquired debt information were arrested.

Job History Records Sources

In June 2012, the staff of Hello Work (Job Security Office) Yokohama and the president of a PI agency in Kanagawa were arrested. An employee of Hello Work Yokohama sold employment history records to the Kanagawa PI agency for 10,000 yen per case. You can retrieve records of 70 million people nationwide from the database of Hello Work. Over four years, the staff sold more than 3,000 employment history records. 

The staff members were sentenced to imprisonment for two years (three years of suspension of execution of the sentence). The president of the Kanagawa PI agency was sentenced to imprisonment for one year and six months (three years of suspension).

Mobile Phone Sources

Around June 2012, a total of 1,200 cases of customer information leakage were arrested by mobile phone commuters and detective companies around Okayama’s Softbank manager and Hiroshima Detective Company, a staff member of the Softbank in Kagawa and Hiroshima (133 cases), a staff member of DoCoMo in Tokyo (880 cases), and a staff member of the au store in Chiba (50 cases).

Route of Vehicle Registration

In July 2012, two police officers from the Nagano Prefectural Police and a former police officer from Nagano Prefecture were arrested on suspicion of leaking vehicle registration information. The Nagano Prefectural Detective sold the vehicle registration information to AJLP in Nagoya for 13,000 yen per case, earning approximately 60 million yen over a few years.

In addition, transport officials and Osaka detectives were arrested on charges of leakage of vehicle registration information. The staff of the Transport Bureau provided information to the Osaka detective company for 12,000 yen per case. Over 2011, they provided more than 300 records.

Resident Register Of Municipalities

In October 2012, a part-time civil tax officer and a Chiba detective in Funabashi City, Chiba Prefecture, were arrested on suspicion of leakage of resident registration information from municipalities.

Resident registration data for municipalities can include name, date of birth, address, residence history, family composition, place of employment, annual income, and divorce history.

Lifeline Sources

In November 2012, a contract employee of the Kansai Electric Power Call Center and a representative of a PI agency in Osaka were arrested on charges of information leakage. They were also connected to AJLP, a Nagoya-based data broker.

Lifeline database searches for electric contracts subscribers were used in the following situations:

  • Search for address from name
  • Search the name of the subscriber (resident name) from the address (room number) of the leased property
  • Search for room number from the name and address of the condominium in which the subject resides.
  • Search for address from name and approximate address (identification of actual address of individual without registration to the municipal government)

Pretexting Phone Sources

On Nov. 6, 2013, the Aichi Prefectural Police arrested two PI companies in Tokyo (TCC and another) for violating the Unfair Competition Prevention Law. TCC spoofed information from lifeline (gas) companies.

This incident was related to the stalker murder case in Zushi City, Kanagawa Prefecture. In this case, a male stalker/murderer requested the PI to locate the current address of the female victim.

The perpetrator killed the victim at her home and then committed suicide.

On Jan. 20, 2015, the Nagoya District Court handed down a sentence of two years and six months of imprisonment with work and five years of suspension of execution of the sentence (three years of imprisonment with work) to the president of TCC.

The company was prosecuted in three other cases, including violating the Unfair Competition Prevention Law by pretexting calls (social hackings) to electricity providers and Keiyo Gas to obtain personal information.

Details Of TCC Case

TCC was suspected of having made a pretexting phone call to the Zushi City Hall. TCC could not obtain the victim’s address from the Zushi City Hall. But in conjunction with other investigations, it could finally locate the victim’s address. TCC specializes in social hacking. 

Before the murder occurred, the Kanagawa Prefectural Police had arrested the perpetrator for stalking. At that time, the police notified the victim’s family name after marriage and the municipality where the victim resided. The police were supposed to read out the information of the victim when arresting the perpetrator. The perpetrator learned from the police that the victim lived in Zushi City with a new married name and hired a PI based on that information.

TCC pretended to be the female victim’s husband and made a pretexting phone call to the city hall. ‘I changed the payment method of my wife’s inhabitants’ tax payment to a bank withdrawal, but the paper bill is still coming by mail. I want to check how the registration is going. Hey, tax wasting public servant, read the registration information aloud.’

Is The Acquisition Of Koseki Family Register Social Discrimination?

The certificate of residence and the certified copy of the Koseki family register are official documents in Japan that certify birth, marriage, divorce, death, nationality, and so on. On the other hand, human rights groups (the Buraku Liberation Alliance [[[AUTHOR: [[[AUTHOR: Please verify the name of this group. Should it be Buraku Liberation League? Thank you.]]]Thank you.]]]Alliance and The Human Rights Awareness Center) that oppose discrimination based on past social caste systems define the copy of the Koseki family register as a factor that encourages discrimination. 

In fact, copies of Koseki family registers do not include items describing the social status. Strictly speaking, a family register copy includes a past address history and an ancestor’s place of origin. In the past, only the discriminated class had been forced to live in certain ostracized villages called Buraku. However, the locations of the former Buraku are disappearing.

In pre-employment and marriage screenings, it has been reported that there are cases where someone tries to exclude job candidates or marriage partners whose ancestors are initially from Buraku.

But there are few such people nowadays. The Buraku Liberation Alliance and the Human Rights Centre are currently organized as pressure groups to protect political rights. Their assertion that the confirmation of the copy of the Koseki family register is a violation of human rights is somewhat different from the actual situation.


The results of the PI’s report were used for crimes in the Prime Incident. Yet, there are cases in which information disclosure is necessary due to civil problems. 

However, there are some legal issues because of the nonexistence of the application of information disclosure. The following are examples of projects that have social significance in the PI industry.

  • Search for long-lost heirs
  • Search for missing owners of the land
  • Examine the address and place of work of the ex-spouses who don’t pay child support.
  • Location of missing debtors
  • Identify the location of the counterparty of the fraudulent act.
  • Identify the location of evaporated relatives.
  • Confirm the identity of the person who owes consolation money.
  • Examine the counterparty’s hidden assets.
  • Resolve the problem of children taken away by one of the parents.

A PI’s role is rescuing clients with civil problems. In this sense, it is time to review the social significance of the PI business and establish laws on information disclosure.

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