We’re stil gathering details here, but three yakuza (Yamaguchi-gumi members) and a former sumo wrestler were arrested yesterday for extortion involving the baseball betting scandal. The Yamaguchi-gumi is Japan’s largest crime syndicate. The three are suspected of extorting millions of yen in hush money from a former sumo wrestler who brokered the illegal bets on baseball (and other events) within the sumo world. All three yakuza deny the charges. They are also suspected of involvement in attempted extortion as well.
If you’ll look back at earlier JSRC posts you’ll see that we were pretty much on target with this story. The question now is how far the investigation will be allowed to proceed. It was revealed recently that on June 21st Senator Hiroshi Nakai, the head of Japan’s Public Safety Commission, which oversees the National Police Agency, had secret meetings with Japan Sumo Association Chairman Musashigawa. The meeting appears to have been aimed at squashing any detailed investigation and reigning in the NPA. The JSA later changed its leadership by installing former prosecutor Hiroyoshi Murayama as its acting chief in place of Musashigawa. However, its not clear how much that changed the situation.
In 2008, Murayama was still an acting director of Suruga Corporation, a Tokyo Stock Exchange listed construction and real estate company. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department investigated Suruga Corporation and announced that the firm had paid over $50 million to a yakuza front company (run by the Goto-gumi) to evict tenants from properties they wanted to develop, and arrested several yakuza on related charges. Suruga Corporation also had former sumo wrestler Asashoryu help them sell condominiums in Mongolia as part of their business plan and hosted parties where Asashoryu and other sumo wrestlers attended with yakuza members. Murayama never discussed his oversight failures regarding Suruga Corporation, which was later de-listed from the Tokyo stock exchange. Underworld sources refer to Murayama as “山口組の御用のヤメ検”, or “an ex-prosecutor often used by the Yamaguchi-gumi for their business interests.”
It does appear, at least, that the Yamaguchi-gumi seems to have one of their people inside the Sumo Association to keep things quiet and has grudging or willing help from above in making sure the investigation doesn’t go too far.
The ex-sumo wrestler, Furuichi Mitsutomo, who was involved in much of the gambling scandal, has a close relative in an independent Tokyo yakuza group with strong ties to the Yamaguchi-gumi. He was also re-arrested yesterday on extortion charges along with the the three Yamaguchi-gumi members. Furuichi has already been arrested and prosecuted on different extortion charges relating to ex-sumo wrestler, Kotomitsuki.
The sumo wrestlers illegally betting on baseball story was first broken by the weekly magazine Shukan Shincho in late May.
An interesting issue: So far the bookie operations were allegedly first run by a Yamaguchi-gumi Kodo-kai boss who passed away last year. However, the Yamaguchi-gumi members arrested for extortion reportedly come from different factions. No yakuza involved in the bookie operations have been arrested yet, nor is it clear who was running the baseball betting operation. One theory being promulgated is that the anti-Kodokai factions within the Yamaguchi-gumi shook down the sumo wrestlers hoping to make a quick buck and also that the whole thing would blow up in the face of the Kodokai. Inter-factional warfare within the Yamaguchi-gumi is always brewing, and as the 40,000-member Yamaguchi-gumi grows at such a cancerous pace that its out of control, factions within the group have begun stepping on each other’s toes. Decades ago, the organization even split apart, result in a vicious and prolonged gang war.