KOBE – About ¥300 million from all the money collected by an association of stall operators in Hyogo Prefecture last year remains unaccounted for, and most likely went to the yakuza, prefectural police said Wednesday.
Police allege the money collected by now-defunct Shinno Commercial Cooperative Association, whose close ties to the underworld recently came to light, went to fund crime syndicates.
Police probing the operation of 16,000 stalls set up at about 400 festivals and other events in 2012 confirmed that about ¥300 million was missing, after deducting venue rental fees and other costs.
Shinno Commercial Cooperative Association was dissolved in August, soon after police determined it had been paying protection money to the yakuza for several years. The ties, however, were not completely severed by the dissolution: One member continued to shake down stall operators by mentioning the names of gangsters.
To root out the yakuza, police plan to establish a new organization to run the stalls at festivals, together with event organizers.
The new group, comprising representatives from Shinto shrines that organize festivals on a regular basis, will verify that stall operators are not affiliated with the yakuza, and be responsible for collecting fees from them.
Meanwhile, on Oct. 29, police in Kasai, Hyogo Prefecture, issued a warning to a former member of the Shinno Association who allegedly extorted money from 46 stall operators at a festival in August.
According to the police, the man claimed to be related to a member of the Yamaguchi-gumi, the top designated mob syndicate.
Police speculate that some of the ¥500,000 the man extorted went into the pockets of the yakuza. Until last year the man was responsible for stall setups at summer festivals.
The police quoted the former member as saying; “I knew that I was not allowed to do that, but since I was short of money, I tried to extort it the way we had done it before.”
Shinno Commercial Cooperative Association’s name and mob ties were disclosed by the Hyogo Safety Commission in June.