Yakuza looking to get a piece of the reconstruction pie
Sankei News is reporting that suspect groups from west Japan have rolled into the Tohoku area, eyeing a piece of the estimated 15 trillion yen that will be spent on reconstruction efforts, including cleanup, rebuilding of neighborhoods and new urban developments. Police say they’ve found proof of activities in the disaster area by a group believed to be associated with the Yamaguchi-gumi. (memo from Jake: The National Police Agency has also issued a directive to all police departments in earth quake stricken areas of Japan to keep a watch out for organized crime attempts to muscle in on reconstruction and waste disposal projects related to the disaster.)
In Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture, authorities report that recently groups called “West Japan Retail Association” and “West Japan Volunteer Club” have been seen distributing envelopes containing around 30,000 yen in cash to victims living in evacuation shelters. City officials who saw the groups feared residents who didn’t receive money would feel hostility towards those that did, and pleaded that the men contribute the money as a large donation, but were ignored. Similar groups have been sighted in Minami-sanriku. Authorities have investigated the groups, and believe them to be operated by the Yamaguchi-gumi Kodo-kai.
Police sources say they suspect yakuza groups are already involved in cleanup work in the disaster zone. They’re currently keeping careful watch over trash processing facilities and monitoring the purchase of construction equipment that will inevitably become necessary when rebuilding begins.
Just as they always do, police are trying to rally together cooperation in the industry to keep out the yakuza, amongst disaster-struck businesses, builders, landfill owners and the like. Authorities stress to disaster victims that it’s illegal to accept money from organized crime groups, or to use their services. Experts say, however, that as groups become more clever in the way they operate, it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate between them and normal businesses.
The mob has always been on the lookout for business opportunities in desperate times, and the Yamaguchi-gumi is known to have profited off of cleanup work after the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995. Authorities say that “Piles of rubble are like mountains of treasure for organized crime groups.” One man’s trash, eh?