Mobster present in sumo cash shakedown

Kyodo News

A member of an underworld group linked to Yamaguchi-gumi is suspected of accompanying an arrested former sumo wrestler when he allegedly demanded hush money from expelled ozeki Kotomitsuki, sources said Friday.

Police are investigating the alleged ties between the mobster and Mitsutomo Furuichi, 38, who was arrested last month on suspicion of extorting ¥3.5 million in hush money from Kotomitsuki in January over his gambling on pro baseball games, to build a case against the gangster, who has not been identified.

Furuichi allegedly demanded that the now-ozeki pay him tens of millions of yen in addition to the money, saying that while the gang had wanted more than ¥100 million, he marked the price down, the sources said.

Expelled stablemaster Otake, who has admitted to gambling on baseball games, mostly through Kotomitsuki, took part in negotiations at a hotel in Osaka in March during the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, the sources said, adding that Furuichi was accompanied by the gangster.

Kotomitsuki rejected the demand at the time. Furuichi allegedly stopped making the demand at a meeting with Otake later in the same month after the then stablemaster told him he had consulted with the police over the matter, according to sources.

Police searched several sumo stables this week to look for evidence of widespread illegal gambling among former and active wrestlers that was allegedly run by a bookie linked to the mob. Friday, they raided the Otake stable in Tokyo.

Last Sunday, the Japan Sumo Association dismissed Kotomitsuki and Otake for betting on baseball games, while suspending more than a dozen active wrestlers, who were involved in gambling, from competing at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament opening Sunday.

Meanwhile, yokozuna Hakuho voiced disappointment Thursday over the association’s decision not to present the winner of the Nagoya tournament with any awards, including the coveted Emperor’s Cup, because of the gambling scandal.

“All of us sumo wrestlers are training hard to win the cup, so I’m very upset and I kind of think they’re going too far,” Hakuho said.