Japan passes new "anti-conspiracy" law

On 15 June 2017, the Japanese government passed a new law that broadens the authorities' ability to target terror-related and other organised criminal activities.

The new law, which is known as the "anti-conspiracy" law, amends the Act on Punishment of Organized Crimes and Control of Crime Proceeds, by criminalising preparatory steps taken by two or more people in furtherance of terrorist or other organised criminal acts. It prescribes 277 such criminal acts which are intended to be covered, including the crime of acceptance of bribes by a public official. Also covered is the crime of giving or accepting bribes in connection with prescribed Companies Act matters (for instance, in relation to the exercise of certain shareholder or bondholder rights).

The amendment has experienced a mixed reception in Japan: while proponents see it as a step towards tougher combatting of terrorism and organised crime, critics have raised concerns regarding the potential extension of police investigatory powers (e.g. surveillance measures) to a broad range of circumstances where they might not have applied previously; for instance, where a person is suspected of carrying out merely preparatory (potentially innocent) acts, rather than the criminal acts themselves.

What it does mean is that those who assist in facilitating certain bribery offences may now be liable for an offence under this law alongside the individuals directly involved in the bribe itself.

The law also amended the Japanese Criminal Code to extend the territorial scope of the offence of bribing Japanese public officials to include bribes given by Japanese nationals outside of Japan. Previously that offence only applied to bribes given within Japan. The territorial scope of the offence of accepting a bribe by a Japanese public official remains unchanged: that offence applies whether the bribe was given inside or outside of Japan.