• Kyodo

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Police carried out a 45-minute search here Friday of Yamaguchi-gumi’s headquarters over allegations that Japan’s largest yakuza group was involved in loan-sharking.

Police suspect billions of yen in profits generated by illegally high interest charged on loans were transferred to the underworld group, investigative sources said.

They believe Yamaguchi-gumi was at the top of a pyramid-style nationwide loan-sharking system, the sources said. Total earnings from the scheme probably amount to hundreds of billions of yen, they said.

Police are trying to choke off one of the main financial sources of the country’s most powerful organized crime syndicate, they said.

Friday’s search involved some 220 officers, including about 120 riot police, who stood guard around the compound. The 45-minute search began at around 10:30 a.m.

In August, a Yamaguchi-gumi member was arrested on suspicion of overseeing about 1,000 moneylenders who allegedly engaged in illicit loan practices and funneled the profits from those operations back to the mob.

Susumu Kajiyama, 54, known as “the king of loan sharks,” and four others were later charged with violating the investment law by collecting some 820,000 yen from a 47-year-old housewife in Sapporo between October 2001 and July 2002. She had only borrowed 236,000 yen. Under legally applicable rates, she would only have had to pay some 20,000 yen in interest.

Kajiyama is reportedly very close to the chairman of Goryo-kai, a Shizuoka-based underworld group affiliated with Yamaguchi-gumi. He is also considered the de facto No. 2 figure of the mob. Kajiyama has been arrested three times on allegations of violating the investment law.

Police believe money generated by loan-sharking flowed from Goryo-kai to Yamaguchi-gumi mainly through Kajiyama. Sources said that roughly 70 percent of the profits of the business went to Yamaguchi-gumi via Goryo-kai. Some of the loan sharks allegedly involved have reportedly provided Yamaguchi-gumi with as much as 300 million yen annually.

According to an investigation, Kajiyama divided the 1,000 loan sharks into groups of 10 to 30 members, known as “centers.” He instructed close aides to manage these centers, and some groups raked in roughly 10 billion yen during the 3 1/2 years to last autumn.

Police have arrested about 30 people connected to two of the centers.

Yamaguchi-gumi is estimated to have about 39,000 members, or about 43 percent of the total number of people known to belong to Japan’s crime syndicates.

Goryo-kai was established last October. The head of Jinnai-gumi, a tertiary affiliate of Yamaguchi-gumi, was elected its chairman. Insiders said the huge amount of money that flowed to Yamaguchi-gumi from Goryo-kai via Kajiyama, the chairman’s close aide, probably contributed to the personnel decision.

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