A tale of two kidneys: Sumiyoshi-kai head plays dealer in domestic organ trafficking case

Two kidneys, two doctors, two yakuza and one missing victim. Police are currently investigating the case of Toshinobu Horiuchi, a doctor who received a kidney transplant last July at Uwajima Tokushukai Hospital in Ehime under dubious circumstances. Doctor Horiuchi and his wife, along with Sumiyoshi-kai member Matsuo Sakamaki, 70, were arrested June 24 under suspicion of illegal organ trafficking, and investigators have been working over the past month to uncover more details in this stranger-than-fiction tale.

The story so far: Needing a new kidney, doctor Toshinobu Horiuchi initially paid Sumiyoshi-kai member Kazuhisa Takino 10 million yen to find a donor, with plans to have the surgery last June at Sakamoto Chuo General Hospital in Tokyo. When the yakuza asked for more money, however, Horiuchi couldn’t deliver, and he was forced to cancel the surgery. The doctor then went to his long-time friend, Sakamaki, and asked him to not only mediate the dispute but to also find a new donor. Horiuchi paid an additional 9 million yen–1 million yen as a show of gratitude to Sakamaki, 1 million as “transportation money” to the negotiator, and 7 million in reparations to Takino. In the end the negotiations fell through, and the 7 million yen was returned to Horiuchi.

Not to be defeated when his life is at stake, Horiuchi then asked Sakamaki to find another donor. Through the medical consulting company he operates, Sakamaki found a young man who was several thousands of yen in debt to an employee, and arranged to have the debt erased if the man became a kidney donor. Police say the man, 21-year-old Tatsuya Ishikawa, had been promised 1 million yen for the kidney as a means of writing off his debt.

Additionally, Horiuchi reportedly paid Sakamaki 8 million yen in gratitude for the organ, and police believe a portion of the money was sent to the Sumiyoshi-kai headquarters. Police are trying to discover where Horiuchi got all the cash from.

Police recently revealed that Tokushukai Group, who operate the hospital, had actually consulted Sakamaki after hecame to them saying his friend needed and organ transplant and he was looking for a recommendation. Sakamaki had known the director of the group for around 14 years and the director knew of his yakuza affiliation for around two to three years. Sakamaki himself had received a recommendation for a hospital four years earlier when he began to have heart problems. The staff member who consulted Sakamaki reportedly did not know he was a member of the yakuza.

The director of the group says they were only out to help a patient in trouble. Shuichiro Matsumoto, the doctor who performed the surgery on the donor, claims no knowledge of the organ being illegally obtained, but Horiuchi’s wife has testified that they told him what was happening, and paid him 300,000 yen to keep quiet.

The whereabouts of the kidney donor, Tatsuya Ishikawa, are as of yet unknown. In order to comply with ethics guidelines set down by The Japan Society for Transplantation, which state live donors must be family members, Horiuchi and his wife adopted Ishikawa in June of last year, before his kidney was removed.  At the hospital, Horiuchi told doctors Ishikawa was just like his real son, and Ishikawa submitted a written letter saying Horiuchi had looked after him just like a natural father would. Police say, however, Horiuchi’s wife had said to her husband of Ishikawa, “After the surgery, he’s got nothing to do with us.” The transplant was a success, but afterwards Ishikawa reportedly disappeared, leaving Horiuchi’s home and ceasing communications with Sakamaki. It’s believed the man received almost none of the promised money.

One thought on “A tale of two kidneys: Sumiyoshi-kai head plays dealer in domestic organ trafficking case”

  1. It seems like every story involving bizarre or horrible things happening to people is rooted in debt to the yakuza. Is debt an almost irrevocable thing in Japan without taking drastic measures? Does it just seem like there’s a lot of people going to the yakuza for financial aid despite the high chance of ending up worse off because of how the news works?

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