Yamaguchi-gumi split, toughened laws will weaken gangs: experts

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

The recent fracturing of the Yamaguchi-gumi, the country’s largest and most powerful crime syndicate, will considerably weaken the gang organization and all yakuza groups in general, two noted experts told a news conference Tuesday in Tokyo.

“I believe all crime syndicates will lose momentum further and further. This is not limited to the Yamaguchi-gumi,” Atsushi Mizoguchi, a noted journalist who has written extensively about yakuza-related crimes, told a meeting at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

Mizoguchi pointed out that police statistics have shown that the number of yakuza groups have decreased rapidly in recent years after various legal regulations against crime syndicates have been strengthened.

According to the white paper published by the National Police Agency in July, the number of yakuza members kept decreasing to hit around 53,500 at the end of last year, down about 40 percent from 1992, when a powerful anti-yakuza law was implemented.

The number was also down 5,100 from the previous year, according to the white paper.

In April 2010, the Fukuoka Prefectural Government implemented an ordinance banning various activities that would benefit designated yakuza groups.

Many local governments followed suit and have since enacted similar ordinances.

Hideaki Kubori, an attorney with years of experience fighting crimes involving yakuza groups, said the number of lawyers in Japan has increased in recent years and they have started tackling areas once dominated by yakuza groups.

These areas include shady debt collection in the financial industry, real estate extortion and personnel management in the entertainment industry, he said.

“Social demands for yakuza have disappeared” in those areas, Kubori said during the news conference.

Last month, a group of yakuza organizations led by gang boss Kunio Inoue split from the Yamaguchi-gumi, which has dozens of member groups across the country.

Confrontations between the Yamaguchi-gumi and the splinter group, now named the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, raised fears that violence could break out on streets across the country.

But more than a month after the split, only a handful of clashes between the two groups have been reported so far.

Mizoguchi pointed out that various legal regulations have been strengthened, which means a crime committed by a rank-and-file member could lead to the arrest of the top leaders of the same yakuza group.

“Yes, it’s true laws have been enacted and they are now reluctant to start fighting each other,” he said.

“But I also believe scuffles over financial interests will take place in many parts of the country, which will gradually lead to (major) fights here and there,” he said.

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