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Resale of exchange items may lead to black marketing charge

Date Posted: 2004-08-12

CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan — While serving the U.S. government overseas, servicemembers, Department of Defense personnel and their dependents receive many benefits such as shopping in on-base stores and commissaries for tax-free merchandise.

Shopping in base establishments for personal goods is beneficial to valid identification card holders. However, when a person resells or gives these goods to another person who does not hold a valid U.S. government identification card and lives on the Japanese economy, then the shopper is guilty of black marketing, according to Marine Corps Bases, Japan, Order 5800.4C.

Black marketing is the illegal transfer of anything that is imported tax fee to anyone on Okinawa who does not have a valid U.S. government identification card, said Gunnery Sgt. Andrew A. Mosley Jr., chief investigator at the Criminal Investigation Division, Provost Marshal’s Office, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler.

“If a Marine buys clothes (from the Base/Post Exchange) for his Japanese girlfriend, (he is) taking a big chance with (his) career,” Mosley said.

While simply buying a gift for someone unqualified to receive it is violating the order, Mosley said that CID concentrates on other people.

“Ideally we want to focus on the professional black marketer,” Mosley said.

Mosley said the professionals purchase goods on base and then transfer them to another person off base. These people either sell the goods to local bars and friends or set up a store in their homes.

Some of the common goods purchased on base for black marketing are beer, meat, rice, and health and beauty aids, according to Mosley.

The sale of these products on the black market has little effect on those living on military installations, but Mosley said that the Japanese government feels the repercussions.

“Their businesses cannot compete with tax-free products,” Mosley said.

For violating MCBJ Order 5800.4C, servicemembers will be charged with failure to obey an order or regulation. Family members can lose their identification cards, driver’s licenses and on-base privileges for one year. If their car was used in the crime, then it will be towed and sold at the owner’s expense. Family members can also be returned to the United States early.

The Okinawa Region Customs Department, which has jurisdiction over the black marketing on Okinawa, works with the CID to enforce import laws.

Japanese Import Law Article 110 states that a fine twice the value of the merchandise purchased on the black market will be incurred. Japanese Import Law Article 11 states that a separate ¥100,000 fine will be charged for each violation of purchasing items for sale on the black market.

To catch individuals dealing in the black market, CID conducts several operations a year, usually around the holidays, said Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Ponte, northern district chief, CID.

“Usually the transfer will occur off base,” Pointe said. “It can be at stores or remote locations, which (black marketers) usually use … so they don’t get caught, and their stores don’t get busted. Everything in their houses where they have their stores set up can be (confiscated).”

While the fines and punishments for violating the Marine Corps Bases, Japan, order and Japanese Import Law Articles can be heavy, Ponte and Mosley said many violators often return to black marketing. Many get caught more than once.

“We’ll be out there,” Ponte said. “These guys have to be lucky every day. We only have to be lucky once.”

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