In 2008 revisions were made to the Organized Crime Countermeasures Law (暴力団対策法) which made it possible to hold organized crime bosses responsible for the actions of their underlings in civil court, by essentially recognizing yakuza groups as corporations.
Former National Police Agency officer and lawyer, Akihiko Shiba, says that since it is very difficult to prove the criminal responsibility of the top yakuza bosses, lawsuits are one way of seeing justice is partially served. “The Organized Crime Countermeasure Laws are administrative laws, not criminal laws. The 2008 revisions made it clear that designated organized crimes groups function like a Japanese company, and therefore the people at the top have employer liability (使用者責任),” he explains. Since 2008, there have been at least three lawsuits against top yakuza bosses for damages by lower ranking members. All were settled out of court. “For the time being the use of civil lawsuits against top yakuza certainly has a deterrent effect on the management. The damages add up after a time,” Shiba says.
Recently, Tadamasa Goto, the former head of the notorious Yamaguchi-gumi Goto-gumi agreed to pay 1.4 million dollars to the family of a real estate agent who was killed by his flunkies in 2006. Goto was never convicted for the murder, although it seems reasonable to believe that he may have ordered it. In Japan, civil responsibility is still easier to prove than criminal responsibility.
The law can be complex but for your edification, our resident Yakuza Comix writer, Kaori Shoji, has spelled it out for you. Read and learn.