• Kyodo

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The Osaka District Court on Tuesday acquitted a senior member of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest underworld syndicate, of conspiring to possess guns and ammunition — contraband his bodyguards were found to be carrying.

Presiding Judge Kazuo Mizushima dismissed prosecutors’ claim that Takashi Takizawa, 66, head of Horyo-kai, knew his bodyguards possessed two handguns and 20 bullets at an Osaka hotel on Sept. 20, 1997.

Prosecutors had demanded a 10-year prison term. Takizawa had pleaded not guilty, claiming he had no knowledge that his underlings were carrying loaded firearms.

The prosecutors said that although Takizawa did not have the guns or ammunition on his person, he conspired with his underlings in the illegal possession of firearms.

They said the mobsters were armed to protect themselves from attack by members of Nakano-kai, a group formerly under the Yamaguchi-gumi that was allegedly responsible for the shooting death of the Yamaguchi-gumi’s No. 2 man, Masaru Takumi, in August that year.

However, the judge noted that Takizawa stayed at the hotel under his real name, and ruled that there was no evidence to show his group was on high alert for any trouble. He also noted that much of the evidence presented by prosecutors lacked objective grounds.

“There is room for rational doubt as to whether the defendant was definitely aware that his subordinates were carrying guns,” the judge said.

Takizawa was grilled after he left the hotel that day, and the five mobsters with him were arrested there for packing guns.

Takizawa and Kenichi Shinoda, 62, another senior Yamaguchi-gumi member who was with Takizawa at the hotel, managed to flee and were placed on a wanted list.

Shinoda surrendered himself to police in June 1998, while Takizawa was arrested in Tochigi Prefecture in July 2001 after almost four years on the lam.

Last June, Takizawa was released on 1.2 billion yen bail set by the Osaka High Court.

In a separate trial, Shinoda, head of the Kodo-kai, another Yamaguchi-gumi affiliate, was also cleared by the Osaka District Court in March 2001 of charges of allowing his subordinates to carry pistols.

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