Black market undermines economy
Within most societies, there is an established and legal method of purchasing and acquiring goods and services that is sanctioned by an appropriate authority – the government. This is the normal economy. Some people establish systems of buying, selling and trading goods outside the normal economy. These unauthorized systems generally exist for profit and are called the “black market.”
The status of forces agreement between the U.S. and Japan allows goods to be brought into Japan free of customs duties. This reliable supply chain, combined with participants willing to violate regulations, makes Okinawa ripe for black market activities.
Items sold in base resale activities, such as the exchanges, commissaries and package stores are exempt from taxes and are popular on the black market in Okinawa. Because of their popularity and the potential for abuse, all items sold in resale activities on base are controlled.
While all items sold on base are controlled, some have a higher demand on the black market than others, requiring additional restrictions and scrutiny when purchased. These items include, but are not limited to, any type of alcohol, petroleum products or cigarettes. There are limits on the quantity of items that may be purchased from these categories, and exceeding those limits is a violation of Marine Corps Bases Japan Order 5800.4D.
For out-of-the-box thinkers, it is a violation of the order to purchase from more than one store with the purpose of avoiding the limitations. Active duty members who desire to purchase above the set limits are required to present a letter of authorization from their battalion or squadron commander or higher. Civilians who desire to purchase above the set limits are required to present a letter of authorization from the commander of the camp where they wish to make the purchase.
The limitations on petroleum products apply even if there is no intention of gaining income. As such, gasoline may not be dispensed into any vehicle not owned by SOFA personnel. The only exceptions are vehicles owned by the U.S. Consulate and vehicles rented or owned by SOFA personnel with temporary registration. Retirees who live on Okinawa and drive Kanji-plated vehicles may purchase gasoline as long as their vehicles display the armed forces retired sticker.
A frequently asked question is, “May I purchase an item from the exchange as a gift for a non-SOFA status friend?” The order is not intended to interfere with gift-giving or normal social courtesies. Gifts may be purchased when the value is not greater than $250 and commensurate with established practices in Japan. Most importantly, there must be no compensation or favors attached to the gift.
The Criminal Investigative Division of the Marine Corps Installations Pacific Provost Marshal’s Office is responsible for investigating and monitoring black market activities. This includes working closely with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service who assist by monitoring purchases and reporting suspected violations.
People who engage in black marketing are usually observed during CID investigations. When they are observed, CID or military police may apprehend and detain suspected violators. Law enforcement personnel may also impound vehicles that are suspected of being used during violations.
All violators may face, at a minimum, revocation of driving privileges, vehicle deregistration and restriction from on base resale activities.
Black market purchases are illegal and hurt the authorized economy. Black market purchases also violate the order and spirit of the SOFA and simply have no
place within the Department of Defense community. Don’t do it.
If you have other questions, please contact the military police at 645-7441, MCIPAC Command Inspector General’s Office at 645-3788, or consult MCBJO 5800.4D.
The IG’s Office exists to improve safety, operational health, individual opportunity and quality of life for uniformed and civilians members and their families.