Jerry Halvorsen on suspicious bank treatment for receiving money from overseas while NJ


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From: Jerry Halvorsen, Sapporo
Subject: What happened this morning with thanks for the expert advice and useful links!
Date: October 8, 2008 5:19:47 PM JST

Yesterday, October 7, at about 4:30 p.m., I received a phone call from my bank requesting that I show up in person and present ID and a reason for receiving funds from overseas. I said that I was busy and that there should be no need to do anything as the amount was not enough to worry about. I was told that the bank would not release the funds unless I came in person. I said you’re mistaken, please check. The clerk replied that he couldn’t because the bank was closed and that I should come in the morning. Again I asked that they release my funds without my being there and again I was told this was not possible.

I was at the Hokuto Branch of Hokuyo Bank (1-1 Kawashimo 3 jo 4 chome, Shiroishi-ku, 003-0863 phone: 011-872-3151) today, October 8, before 9:00 a.m. and was the first to visit the foreign exchange area when it opened. I was again asked to show ID and state the reason for the transfer and I refused. Instead I asked if everyone who transfered money was asked to show ID or was it just foreigners? I was told that it is policy to ask everyone, but I have no way to confirm that.

I then asked to see the bank’s policy and a copy of any applicable laws in writing. I also said it was my understanding that for any bank transfers under 5 million yen that no other special ID or in person appearance was needed. I said that he should confirm that with someone higher up and then hurry up and transfer my funds so I could go to work.

The desk clerk, unfortunately I didn’t get his name, but I think it was Kato, then called the main office in Sapporo. I sat in my chair and read a novel. After a few minutes of conversation he said that I was indeed correct and that there would be a transfer of funds by 10:30 a.m.

I said that’s not good enough anymore. I was inconvenienced by having to come down here from work without just cause and that I wanted a formal apology in writing from the bank. I also wanted to make sure this doesn’t happen again, to me, or any other customer, foreign or Japanese, and that the bank endeavor to better train its employees in the law because apparently they haven’t had very good training until now. I said it should not be up to me to instruct them and I have better things to do with my time. The desk jockey said he couldn’t issue an apology other than his own personal regret at his ignorance of the law. I said find me someone who can because I’m not leaving without one. I then went back to reading my novel.

Frantic discussions and phone calls followed. A few minutes later, I was told the branch manager, Tomoyuki Nishimura, would see me. A few seconds after that a harried looking Nishimura-san escorted me into his office. I gave my spiel about wanting a formal written apology and assurances that the bank would better train its employees in the law and that it was unacceptable that they would not know better. Nishimura-san, expressed his regret and promised that he would personally conduct a training session this evening and inform me of the results. I asked that he put that in writing. He demurred and begged me to accept his verbal apology and promised to call me tomorrow, October 9, to verify that the training session had taken place. I said that I have been a customer of this bank for over 25 years and had never been subject to such treatment I was appalled at the lack of knowledge on the part of its employees. I again requested a written apology and again was asked to accept a verbal one.

As it was nearing 10:00 a.m. and time when I had to leave to get my second period class, I reluctantly said that this time it was acceptable and that I expect much better service in the future and also expected that no customer would be subject to such checks again. After much bowing and scraping from pretty much the entire staff, I made my exit. I got to my class on time and checked my bank balance as soon as I finished teaching. The money was indeed in my account and I had not needed to do anything (other than complain).

It was good to complain and I hope that some good will result. I am still considering sending a formal letter of complaint depending on what Nishimura-san says tomorrow. As of now, I am leaning toward sending the letter to Hokuto Branch and to the main office and also doing some more follow-up to see that this is not just Hokuto Branch policy, but any Hokuyo Bank. I’ll probably keep on nagging until I reach someone higher up than branch manager. I’ll let you know how it works out.

Feel free to edit and post this if you feel it would help someone else. Again, my thanks for the advice. Jerry


From: Jerry Halvorsen
Subject: Second talk with Hokuto Branch manager Nishimura
Date: October 9, 2008 11:15:37 AM JST

Hokuyo Bank Hokuto Branch manager Kazuyuki (my mistake, not Tomoyuki) Nishimura called me this morning around 9:00. He reported that he had a meeting with all employees present yesterday afternoon and that they discussed my complaint and that all employees were instructed in the proper procedures for customers who receive funds from overseas or who transfer or exchange funds in different currencies at their branch. He thanked me for taking the time to visit yesterday, as if I had a choice, and promised that there would no more trouble in the future. I thanked him and said that I was happy that the Hokuto Branch had undergone some necessary training, but that as far as I was concerned it didn’t end the issue.

I then asked that he contact the main office and inform them that since they had obviously failed in their training that I would like an apology from them also. He said the main office was aware of what took place yesterday and approved the training session and would that please be sufficient this time. I said sorry, but that is not good enough. I want proof that the home office is aware that they made a mistake and that it needs to be corrected by proper training for all its managers and employees. Hokuto Branch has done a good thing, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Nishimura-san said that he would get back to me with the response of the home office.

Finally, I said that I did not wish to see this problem escalate but at the same time the responsibility of the headquarters is at least as great, if not more so, as that of the Hokuto Branch. If the main office did not contact me then I would have to go to them. I also said that the substance of the conversation yesterday and the one today would be posted on the Internet and if I did go to the main office I would not go alone but I would bring the media with me. I am now waiting for the bank’s response. Jerry



From:   Jerry Halvorsen
Subject: Apology received from Hokuyo main office 
Date: October 9, 2008 5:19:21 PM JST

I just received an apology by phone from Mr. Kaoru Yanagihara, the person in charge of the Hokuyo customer service section (okyuyakusan sodan chitsu). He said that on behalf of everyone in the Hokuyo organization he was very sorry for the trouble I experienced yesterday at the Hokuto Branch. He also said that with the merger next week between Sapporo Bank and Hokuyo Bank that there will be even more employees coming into the Hokuyo system in the near future. He asked that I accept his promise that shortly after the merger takes place, he will send a memo to all the branch managers informing them of the respective laws regarding currency transactions and that they are not to unduly bother customers when not legally required to do so. He promised to tell me when this occurred and stated that he would most likely be able to do so near the end of next month when the merger business has had time to settle down. I said that would be sufficient and that I was looking forward to receiving this news. In the meantime, he said he informed the Hokuyo officers of the action taken yesterday with the training session at the Hokuto Branch. I thanked him and asked that I be informed of any further developments. That’s where we stand for now. If by December 1 I do not hear anything, I will again contact Mr. Yanagihara and Mr. Nishimura and see what has been done in regards to training.  However,  if any readers have any similar complaints about treatment from Hokuyo or Sapporo Bank, don’t hesitate to contact Kaoru Yanagihara at the Hokuyo Main Branch, telephone 011-261-1311.   All of my conversations took place entirely in Japanese, but there are English speaking staff available. Jerry


COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened.  It’s happened to me too, and to others just for exchanging money while looking NJ/having a connection with a NJ-looking name at Japanese banks.  Even when the amount is far below amounts that would legally trigger alarms for potential money laundering.  Don’t tolerate customer service that treats NJ customers as suspicious just because they’re bringing money to a bank, I say.  Ask for the bank rules governing the situation in writing and see if you’re an exception or not.  For starters.  Debito

REFERENTIAL LINKS: (see Olaf’s entry)


14 comments on “Jerry Halvorsen on suspicious bank treatment for receiving money from overseas while NJ

  • Good on you Jerry!

    What you did was awesome and totally correct.You would think bank employees would have at least a basic knowledge (ammounts where no ID is necessary etc.)of the laws.You should send the bank a bill for a couple of thousand yen an hour for all the time you wasted having to go in there when legally you didn’t have to.Please keep us informed on what happens. From memory there is an organisation called the zenginkyoukai, a sort of “governing body” that most banks belong to, or perhaps membership is manditory. A quick email to them might also go a long way.

    Again, well done!!!!!


  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Jerry, one important question: had you previously told the bank that you would be receiving funds?

    I’ve received funds from overseas twice, once with Sumitomo and once with Citibank, and have never had a problem. Both times I called in advance to confirm the Swift codes, etc., and told them the dates on which the money would be arriving. They do like (need?) to make sure that all is in order when a deposit of more than 1,000,000 yen is coming from overseas, but a phone call should have done the job.

    Citibank was particularly professional, diligent, and respectful, and they even speak English.

    If that clerk said that the bank was “closed” at 4:30 PM, he was simply being lazy. The employees (and certainly the manager) are still there at work even if the consultation window is closed, and if they’re the ones making a mistake and you insist on seeing them, they’ll open it for you.

    My bank (Sumitomo) once made a mistake in processing one of my forms and called me at 9:30 AM after I specifically told them that I work overnight and don’t wake up until 2 or 3 PM. I angrily informed them that I wouldn’t go there a moment before 3:00 — signing legally-binding documents after being woken up from sleep in the middle of your “night” is foolish — and they made arrangements. Needless to say, everyone was still at their desks well after 3 PM.

    Don’t feel guilty about escalating the problem of causing trouble — this is *your money* and it’s their duty to handle it the right way. Just two weeks ago I had the above-mentioned money coming into Citibank, and if a teller or manager had pulled this kind of nonsense, I would have missed the deadline and lost the property, forfeiting the earnest money (no small sum!) in the process. Make them do their jobs!

  • Similar thing happened to me at a regional bank, Saningoudo bank. The amount was about 700,000 yen. Was told that coming in a showing my drivers license was not enough, I even had to go to the city office and get a copy of my foreign resident registration! I was annoyed and surprised so complained a bit but didn’t have the presence of mind to ask them if it was legally required, although they said it was bank policy. A large amount of fluffing around so I said that the next time I would receive money I would do it at a different bank I bank with. Which I did.

    With Mitusubishi-Tokyo UFJ bank I received about 20,000,000 (from my account overseas) and all that happened was a phone call to let me know that the money was coming in to my account. No ID required. I think the difference came down to the Saningoudo bank being a regional bank, not used to receiving overseas funds.

  • the japanese post office are famous for these types of money sending games..try purchaseing an international money order and you will be given the third degree like your a criminal..and then you will have to wait for about an hour or more..and it seems to be even worse since they formed JP post bank..the service is getting worse and they just increased the fee from 500yen to 2000yen thats an insane increase for a lousy money order..just think about if you have to buy them every month..

  • The same thing happened with me with Mizuho bank with a transfer of $200 (from my parents, no less). I didn’t think to question the policy simply bc I didn’t have time. I won’t make the same mistake again.

  • the banks try to get away from doing there job by saying this is bank policy, dont let them get away with this..if this is bank policy then ask then to see there so-called bank policy in writing..9 times out of 10 they will never show you there policy because there so-called bank policy does not exist its just an excuse to give me and you the run-around, and waste are time..

  • Actually it was 1 Nigerian and 5 Japanese arrested for large scale money laundering.

    Monday September 3, 10:39 AM
    CORRECTED: LEAD: Nigerian, 5 Japanese arrested for money laundering

    (Kyodo) _ A Nigerian man living in Saitama Prefecture and five Japanese cohorts have been arrested for their alleged involvement in a money laundering scheme on behalf of U.S. crime syndicates, police said Monday.

    Asabor Felix Steve, 40, is suspected of having requested Keiichi Isono, 32, and other suspects to open accounts at financial institutions in Tokorozawa, Saitama, and other places in order to launder money which the syndicates obtained through fraudulent means, according to the investigation.

    The suspects include Asabor’s wife Rieko, 42, the police said.

    The police have confirmed the existence of at least 40 accounts, in which a total of 700 million yen realized from the criminal activities is believed to have been remitted from overseas, they said.

    Isono and others withdrew cash from the accounts and handed it over to Asabor as compensation, which Asabor subsequently transferred, via another Nigerian man, to the United States, China and Canada on behalf of the syndicates, the police said.

    While Asabor has denied the allegations, the five other suspects have admitted to them, the police added.

    While the U.S. syndicates are suspected of having obtained the money by coming up with underhand investment schemes, the Japanese police are now investigating further into the particulars of the shady transactions, they added.

  • This past spring I received a large amount of money from overseas. I did get a phone call from the bank asking if I was expecting a transfer and if it was ok for them to accept it. That was the end of it besides a ream of paperwork they sent via mail supporting the bank transfer. Little muss. No fuss.

  • The law says anyone has to show an ID to the bank when receiving more than 100,000 yen from overseas, not 5,000,000 yen as is written in the main text.

    第七条の二  法第十八条第一項 に規定する政令で定める小規模の支払又は支払等は、十万円に相当する額以下の支払又は支払等とする。

    “Government Ordinance on Foreign Exchange
    (Payment or receipt of payment that is exempt from ID check by banks)
    Article 7-2. The small amount of payment or receipt of payment stipulated by article 18 paragraph 1 of the Law is the payment or receipt of payment in the amount of 100,000 yen or equivalent or less.”

    I think the wrong doing of the bank is misquoting the pertinent regulation and apologizing to Jerry, hoping to avoid rocking the boat.

    — No, you’re not merely thinking, you’re assuming — that the bank is not overdoing it even with the new regulation (thanks for the correction — the ceiling figure is a relatively new one). Jerry’s transferred amount is still under the legal limit (I happen to know how much it was). The bank is still in the wrong here. And as other cases have shown, it’s not the first time banks are zeroing in on NJ customers like this for extra hoops..

  • What is wrong with showing your ID to your banker? You have to show your ID to open your account anyway.

    There is another provision that allows bankers to ask for an ID.

    第八条  次の各号に掲げる法の規定に規定する政令で定める取引は、当該各号に定める取引(第一号イからラまで、第二号イ、第三号イ、第四号イ、第五号イ及び第六号イに掲げる取引にあっては、犯罪による収益の移転に利用されるおそれがない取引として主務省令で定めるもの及び本人確認済みの顧客等との取引を除く。)とする。
    一  法第四条第一項 の表第二条第二項第一号から第三十三号までに掲げる者の項 次のいずれかに該当する取引
    ム イからハまで、チからヨまで又はソからナまでに規定する契約に基づく取引のうち、なりすまし等が疑われる取引に該当するもの

    I do not want to translate the lengthy text, but the Article 8, Paragraph 1, Item 1, Sub-item MU of Government Ordinance on Prevention of Transfer of Crime Profit says, if it is suspected that the person is pretending someone else’s identity, a bank can ask for an ID. This clause is put in there to give some discretionary power to banks. So, if a banker wants to see your ID, just show it, for he has that discretion and good people have that obligation.

    I know, Debito, you want to argue that such power should not be used based on racial profiling. I agree. But I do not agree with this kind of activism for there is no evidence that the bankers are racially profiling. Rather, such activism just makes people look like bad citizens (or residents).

  • Thanks for shedding some light on the situation HO. How could anyone who has taken a plant to Japan and read on the customs declaration that bringing more than 10 million yen into Japan requires a declaration think that there was no hassle for ‘less than 5mil’? Try having that sent to the US where you have to show a picture ID for everything.

    Sad and easily avoidable miss here Debito, you could have easily checked the facts before posting this kind of yellow journalism. Just because this guy mistakenly thinks that he can transfer any amount of money from overseas, does not give him license to be a pain in the ass. This is not activism, it is on par with a temper tantrum from a 5 year old.

  • I read very strange stories about sending money to Japanese banks. I am amazed of the difficulties people seem to have. I send money regularly, usually transferring below 500000JPY, sometimes millions of JPY. I never told to the bank that a sum of money is expected to come, and the bank has not asked me about the transfer, though they send a letter about the arrival of the money.
    The money arrives to my account in Mizuho Bank from my account in Europe in three days. I have never needed to go to the bank because of those transfers. I send the money from my home by PC and through the Internet address of the foreign bank. The transfer takes less than one minute.
    Years ago I had foreign nationality and I had a foreign name. Now I have Japanese nationality, and an ordinary Japanese name which in no way indicates that I could be of foreign origin.In both cases the transfers have been smooth with no questions made.

  • I don’t suppose we have anyone out there who is Japanese and has had this happen. Would be nice to know. Would even be nicer to see that a Japanese has accepted money over the limit and NOT been asked to show I.D.


  • If banks have the right to ask for it, then that’s fair. But if you have to take half a day off because of an ignorant who doesn’t know how to do his job or follows a “rule” that is not even legal, then you’ve got a pretty good reason to complain and ask for an apology (and why not ask for the half day lost?), especially if it’s your money. If banks have the balls to use our money to make profit out of it, they should assume their mistakes. It seems that the bank not only asked him for I.D., but also asked for a REASON… aaaah, the reason? well, buy 34man of crunchy peanut butter to make peanut butter pizza.


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