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Traffic Violators – Japanese Police Are Coming for Your Crypto!

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 2 min read

Cryptocurrency owners in Japan, beware – pay your parking fines on time, or the police will take your tokens!

Source: iStock/urbancow

That appears to be the message after police in the Gifu Prefecture seized over USD 3,600 worth of cryptocurrencies from a man who had accrued years’ worth of late fees on parking violations dating back to August 2014.

Per Reuters Japan and the Okinawa Times, police forces around the country have been looking to take advantage of a new law, introduced last year, which states that cryptocurrencies do have a legal and financial value – meaning police and courts can be granted the power to seize them. However, this is the first time that the police have made a token seizure of this scale.

The man has been described as unemployed, and was residing in Nagoya. Officers say he had repeatedly failed to pay fines for almost half a decade. The police had sent him over a dozen warnings, and paid numerous visits to his house, but eventually concluded that he owned no assets of value besides his cryptocurrency holdings.

The move comes just under a year after Hyogo prefectural officers became the first police force in the world to seize tokens for unpaid traffic fines – taking a much smaller amount of cryptocurrency (around USD 45) from a 55-year-old traffic laws violator.

Central bank slams cryptocurrencies

Elsewhere in the country, the head of the Bank of Japan (BoJ) has slammed cryptocurrencies, stating that crypto investment represents mere “speculation.” Governor Haruhiko Kuroda told a parliamentary finance committee on May 9, “Cryptocurrencies aren’t used much for payments and settlements, and are often the target of speculation.”

Kuroda’s comments come three months after he told parliamentarians that cryptocurrencies are not legal tender and “don’t have assets to back up their value,” as reported on at the time by Reuters.

Interestingly, on May 8 Mario Draghi, the President of the European Central Bank (ECB), also said “cryptocurrencies, or bitcoins, or anything like that” are not currencies, but “speculative assets” that do not have the same stability as the euro.

Regardless of the BoJ’s stance, however, Japanese banks and its financial sector remain keen on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. A number of banks in the country have invested heavily in cryptocurrency companies, including exchange platforms.

These include the likes of Softbank Group, a financial giant which, per Nikkei, this week announced the sale of its 36.08% stake in Yahoo Japan to its mobile subsidiary SoftBank Corp, which already owns some 12% of Yahoo Japan’s shares. The move means the latter will own almost half of Yahoo Japan – which operates the newly rebranded TaoTao crypto exchange, a licensed platform that Yahoo Japan bought a 40% stake in last year.

Other notable banking firms involved in cryptocurrency in Japan include the likes of the SBI Group, whose chairman recently became a Ripple board member.

Meanwhile, some of Japan’s biggest commercial banks are planning (or have already moved ahead with) stablecoin launches this year.