TT-665 -- Govinda Mainali - Justice 15 Years Too Late, ebiz news from Japan

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A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, June 10, 2012, Issue No. 665


- What's New -- Govinda Mainali - Justice 15 Years Too Late
- News -- Record amount of Tokyo office space available
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Destinations Picks -- Kanagawa and Okinawa
- News Credits

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Last week something happened that we never expected to see:
the release of Govinda Prasad Mainali, a Nepalese who has
been in prison on and off since 1997. Mainali was released
to Immigration authorities, who are going to deport him for
overstaying his visa back in 1997, because the Tokyo High
Court finally agreed to a retrial of Mainali after new DNA

Japan has an extremely high conviction rate for many
reasons, including some not to be proud of. One of these is
the willingness of the courts to hear prosecution testimony
with greater belief than anything the defense may say.
Particularly problematic is the acceptance of "induced"
confessions as if they were fact, even if the other
evidence is not sufficiently supported by actual facts.

Further, the conviction rate of foreigner suspects (you
definitely don't want to be one) is a foregone conclusion,
with seemingly little or no interest by the courts about
who actually committed the crime when a foreigner is offered
up as the perp. There are a number of recorded cases where
the courts have actually SAID there has been insufficient
evidence for an ordinary conviction, but none-the-less
have convicted the defendant anyway, simply because the
prosecutors said they did it.

Unfortunately the Japanese police, immigration, and
prosecutors have the ability to "disappear" suspects for
days or even months while they mercilessly interrogate them
so as to extract a confession. This is not just a foreigner
thing. The abuse of this system became so bad that several
years ago new laws were pushed through that now require
prosecutors to record their interrogation interviews.
However, this doesn't force them to treat the suspect
humanely and there are still lots of ways for them to
induce a confession outside of the actual interrogation.
And, well, the recorder could always just run out of

The case of Govinda Mainali is particularly distressing,
and reminds all foreigners that through seemingly innocent
circumstances we could just as easily be caught up in a
similar situation. Reading about his case makes you feel
like we're living in an emerging economy in the Middle East
rather than a first-world country like Japan. In
particular, we feel that his is a case where his race and
foreignness played a large part in how he was treated. At
the same time we concede that Japan does not have a
monopoly on unfair treatment by the courts. There are
plenty of examples in the UK and USA to compare.

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

The background to his case is that he was a restaurant
worker in Shibuya and who shared an apartment with four
others. Unfortunately for him, he started seeing a local
hooker, Yasuko Watanabe, and struck up a relationship with
her. By all accounts they didn't see each other often, but
at some point he helped her get access to a vacant
apartment near his, and she used to take her customers
there -- four men a night, virtually every night. What is
weird is that she was leading a double life and by day was
a highly paid researcher for Tokyo Electric Power Co.
(TEPCO). When she was found murdered in the vacant
apartment, Mainali became the prime suspect by virtue of
the fact that he had a key to the apartment and that his
name was in her diary.

The problem for Mainali is that he lied initially, saying
he didn't know her, which of course made the police
suspicious. At some point he changed his story and agreed
that he'd slept with her, but the damage was done. The fact
that he lied wasn't surprising, considering he was an
overstayer and was no doubt fearful of what might happen to
him, but once he started down that slippery slope, the
prosecutors pieced together all the circumstantial evidence
and decided they had their man.

Mainali had good lawyers, however, who decided there was
an injustice being done and made a crusade out of getting him
freed. In 2000 his case was thrown out by the Tokyo
District Court for lack of evidence. At that point, if he
was a Japanese he would have been let go, but because the
outstanding deportation order, the Prosecutor's office
successfully had him kept in jail while they appealed to a
higher court. With the second trial he was found guilty and
sentenced. A subsequent Supreme Court appeal also failed.

It was only after 15 long years of appeals by Mainali's
lawyer and a change of judge, that the prosecutor's office
was forced to admit they had untested sperm samples in
a freezer. Just recently they reluctantly and finally
tested the DNA from the victim and they found -- guess what
-- the DNA wasn't his.

What is interesting is that Yasuko Watanabe kept meticulous
records of her customers, and on that list was one of her
bosses at TEPCO, where she worked. Who else was she seeing?
Was Mainali a fall-guy for something deeper and darker?
There are various Japanese websites that speculate that
Watanabe in her day job, having written a number of damning
internal reports about nuclear power risks at TEPCO,
coupled with an affair with one of her bosses (possibly the
current Chairman of the company), meant that she was
silenced by the Yakuza on the behalf of "someone".

Another key point, and the reason for Mainali's release was
the fact that the Prosecutor's office seemingly never
revealed to several appeal courts (the High Court and the
Supreme Court) that they didn't do a DNA test on sperm
inside the victim's body. Given how crucial it was to the
case, how is that even possible?

Anyway, Mainali is now going to be deported. No word yet on
whether he is going to be allowed back to represent himself
at the re-trial, and certainly if we were him, we wouldn't
be planning to come back to Japan, ever. However, at that
hearing, if he is found not guilty through lack of
evidence, as he was back in 2000, then there is the small
issue of compensation. If he was in some other countries,
he might be able to claim hundreds of thousands of dollars
in mental anguish, physical hardship, and lost earnings.

But this is Japan, and in one case a South American woman
who was arrested by the Chiba Prefectural Police was
illegally confined at a hotel for 10 days until they got an
arrest warrant (god knows what actually went on at the
hotel). She was awarded JPY2m in compensation for wrongful
detention. It didn't do her much good, though, as the court
still imprisoned her on her hotel confession even though
she retracted it once they properly charged her. She got 8
years and has no doubt been deported by now...

We wish Mainali the best of luck with the rest of his life,
and hope that his case knocks some sense into the Japanese
courts and the Prosecutor's Office, since it's apparent
that they were highly embarrassed by the turn of events.
But the fact is that a foreigner falling afoul of the
Japanese legal system doesn't have a hope in hell of
getting a fair trial. In our opinion, the first step in
getting Japan to address the obvious inequalities towards
foreigners in the legal system is to pass a law making
prosecutors who hide/withhold evidence open to legal
charges themselves.

Secondly, racial discrimination against non-Japanese should
be illegal, especially by law enforcement bodies. According
to a book from Mainali's supporters, in 1997, 76.1% of
Japanese suspects were held in custody, whereas for
foreigners the number was 99%. Apart from being a overdue
concession to human rights, equal treatment would also give
overstayers a foothold to appeal on the grounds that they
should get the same level of legal consideration that any
Japanese would expect.

Thirdly, Japan also needs to recant the death penalty.
We're not sure why Mainali wasn't put on the death row, but
he did get the second most harsh sentence -- that of
indefinite life imprisonment. If he had been on death row,
it's possible that after the 2003 Supreme Court appeal
failed, that he would have been hanged. Too late, then, for
apologies later.

Lastly, it is also obvious that Japan needs stricter
suspect detention rights rules, such as giving prisoners
access to legal advice and protection from abusive law
authorities, and habeus corpus procedures that require the
police and immigration to prove that they actually have
legal right to hold someone. These are obvious and simple
rights that most first-world citizens and residents take
for granted. Many people would be shocked if they knew just
how primitive the system is in Japan, and how easy it is
for foreigners in particular to fall into the legal
system's maw.


* Background to the case --
* Defense group's indictment of the pathetic decision made
by the Supreme Court in the face of fresh evidence --
* Wikipedia account by Japanese --

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- Nomura says "sorry" about insider trading info leaks
- Less foreigners in 2011
- NEC turns down Renesas plea for investment
- Major changes in pension enforcement system
- Record amount of Tokyo office space available

=> Nomura says "sorry" about insider trading info leaks

Somehow saying "sorry" doesn't seem enough, but it's a
start for Nomura Holdings, which has ignominiously had to
apologize for leaking confidential client information to
investors. Nomura itself is conducting an internal
investigation, while the SESC is going after investors who
acted on the leaked info. In a first, the SESC is fining US
investment firm First New York Securities JPY14.7m for
selling TEPCO shares on insider tips. ***Ed: Separately,
Nomura's stock price is at a record low after a huge fall
in profits, the insider leaks scandal, and poor performance
from its Lehman Brothers acquisition in 2008.** (Source: TT
commentary from, Jun 8, 2012)

=> Less foreigners in 2011

It's not surprising, but the number of registered foreign
residents in Japan, including zainichi (multi-generational)
Korean and Taiwanese residents, dropped by 56,000 people,
to 2.079m by the end of last year. The Immigration Bureau
numbers just released don't give full details yet, but
apparently the biggest fall in foreign residents was in
Tokyo, with a drop of 12,000 people. ***Ed: We suspect that
once the detailed numbers come out, that it will show that
the number of people from first-world countries has fallen
even further than the 2.5% suggested, and some of the
recovery of foreign residents will be from those coming in
from other parts of Asia to provide low-cost labor as part
of the turnaround efforts by local firms. This is not good
for Japan's in-bound foreign investment, because aside from
obvious things like local markets and lower labor costs,
the third most common reason for foreign companies to
choose a base of operations is to be where their senior
management want to live.** (Source: TT commentary from, Jun 10, 2012)

=> NEC turns down Renesas plea for investment

It's a well-trodden path for failing conglomerates to hive
off money-losing divisions and to make them stand or fall
on their own. Apart from anything else, it removes the cost
of laying off tens of thousands of employees and also lets
the company retreat from the media glare as the spin-off
sinks or swims. Such is the case with Renesas and NEC,
where the struggling chip company is trying to find new
capital, but is learning that it's to be a sacrificial
lamb. NEC has also apparently told Renesas that it will
also not take on any of the 12,000 Renesas employees due to
be slashed this year. ***Ed: We've been saying for some
time that NEC is a sinking ship. For us, this is simply
more evidence of just how bad things are.** (Source: TT
commentary from, Jun 9, 2012)

=> Major changes in pension enforcement system

It looks like the government is going to drop all pretense
that pension payments are anything but a tax. Apparently in
2015, the National Tax Agency will be tasked with
collecting unpaid premiums from delinquent citizens. Since
non-compliance by part-timers and contract staff is more
than 50% and since they make up about 30% of the workforce,
this is a huge change. ***Ed: Our guess is that the
millions who don't pay their pensions probably don't
because of the low wages they're already on. It's hard to
see small- to medium-sized firms ratcheting up payments
much more, so this will most likely mean a jump in lay-offs
and unemployed at that time.** (Source: TT commentary from, Jun 8, 2012)

=> Record amount of Tokyo office space available

Now is a great time to be looking at moving office,
according to real estate firm Miki Shoji. The company says
that the office vacancy rate in Tokyo increased 0.17% in
May, hitting a record 9.4% in vacancies. Surprisingly,
though, average rents rose 0.11% to an JPY16,729 per
tsubo (3.3m2) in the central wards of Shibuya-ku,
Shinjuku-ku, Minato-ku, Chiyoda-ku, and Chuo-ku. Miki Shoji
put this down to the high offering prices at the new JP
Tower building just completed on the site of the old Tokyo
Central Post Office. ***Ed: So in reality, average rents
probably dropped further.** (Source: TT commentary from, Jun 7, 2012)

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.



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In this section we run comments and corrections submitted
by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and
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=> No feedback this week.


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