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Japan Subculture Research Center

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Cracking down: Sumo scandal just a part of larger anti-yakuza operation


Jul 30, 2010

Sumo scandal news may have begun to quiet down with the end of the Nagoya Tournament, but this great article from Gavin Blair at the Christian Science Monitor tells the tale of how the entire shakeup started not as a slap on the hands of wrestlers involved in illegal activities, but as a strike against the omnipresent yakuza by the National Police Agency’s proactive chief Takaharu Ando.

After decades of unspoken agreements between police and yakuza that have allowed organized crime to operate with relative impunity in everything from gambling on sport and illegal casinos to human trafficking and prostitution, the national police are cracking down on Japan’s top yakuza gang, energized not only by the embarrassment over the sumo debacle but also by the emergence of a dynamic new National Police Agency (NPA) chief last year who wants to curtail the broad influence of yakuza in society.

“We want them to disappear from public society,” Takaharu Ando told reporters in Tokyo after a meeting of police chiefs across Japan that he called to discuss strategies. While Mr. Ando may not yet have proved himself to be Japan’s own Eliot Ness, there’s no doubt about his determination to tackle organized crime.

Read “Japan’s yakuza mafia faces a crackdown” at the Christian Science Monitor.

The fight against the yakuza has gotten more heated as the NPA has managed to buckle down and team up with–or in some cases simply pressure–companies and local citizens in eliminating the country’s increasingly diverse ranks of organized crime.

Sumo isn’t the only sport that has gone through measures to flush gangsters out of their stands. The East Japan Boxing Association has begun organizing an “organized crime elimination committee.” Gang members have been technically prohibited from attending baseball games since 2003, according to the Organized Crime Elimination Declaration (暴力団等排除宣言).

Within the past few years, it’s gotten noticeably more difficult for yakuza to take up residence in public housing, and those who are found already dwelling in them are being kicked out. Ordinances regarding organized crime members in public housing were revised in June 2007 after a deadly shootout between gang members occured at municipal housing in Tokyo’s Machida city earlier that year. Enforcement has been slowly catching on throughout the country, as seen in this 2009 article picked up from the Yomiuri.

In March of this year, police began pressuring convenience stores in Fukuoka prefecture to remove magazines and other publications that may “glorify” the yakuza. (Check out the related JSRC post here)

Banks have reportedly also made it difficult for gang members, with a number of bankseven the post office–during the first half of this year becoming proactive on regulations that shut down existing accounts and prevent new ones from being created if the customer in question is suspected of having organized crime connections. In May, the NPA agreed to cooperate in setting up a database that shares information on nearly 40,000 organized crime members.

Most recently, on July 29, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government announced that in November they will be introducing a new system that will hopefully prevent contractors with organized crime connections, in particular front companies, from being hired. According to the Mainichi, the new system will hopefully be an effective replacement for similar 1987 guidelines to prevent yakuza involvement in metropolitan public works projects (都公共工事契約関係暴力等対策措置要綱).

Says Jake:

At one of the private meetings held in May between NPA officials and the top bosses of Japan’s 20 major organized crime groups, sources say officials told one Tokyo yakuza boss that although the Yamaguchi-gumi’s apparent allegiance with the Democratic Party of Japan has so far prevented any new criminal conspiracy laws being put on the books, the NPA is prepared to use a similar law to make arrests.

Known as the “Law Regarding Organized Crime Punishment and Regulations on Profits from Crime” (“組織的な犯罪の処罰及び犯罪収益の規制等に関する法律” or “組織的犯罪処罰法” – see Wikipedia here), the law has before been used to make unprecedented arrests of large groups of gang members based on the actions of just a few. In one case in Saitama, 39 members of the Yamaguchi-gumi were arrested in connection to the 2008 murder of a Sumiyoshi-kai gang leader carried out by three members. (The Yomiuri has since taken the article down, but a re-posted version is available here)

Using the law, the police have essentially found a way to hold the people at the top responsible for the criminal actions of their underlings. This makes gang bosses much more reluctant to authorize violent acts.

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