Allegations appearing last week in tabloid Shukan Bunshun indicating that Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara paid off a former mobster are not a surprise to a writer who focuses on organized crime, reports Nikkan Gendai (June 21).
The June 28 issue of the magazine reported that Hara in 2006 paid 100 million yen to a former gangster and another man who had extorted him over evidence of an adulterous escapade that took place in 1988.
The 53-year-old manager acknowledged the affair and the payoff, but he did not know of any gangster involvement and had no connections to organized crime, the Giants said in a statement. The team added that they were told by the police that the men had no mob ties.
The Giants also announced that they will be suing Bungeishunju, the publisher of Shukan Bunshun, for damages.
Non-fiction author Atsushi Mizoguchi, who has written numerous books about the yakuza underworld, including “The Third Generation Yamaguchi-gumi: Kazuo Taoka and Jiro the Killer,” the story of a rise to power within Japan’s largest gang, says that it is not unusual for athletes to have ties to the mob.
“Although society may be surprised to hear that manager Hara paid 100 million yen to a suspicious person, I am not,” Mizoguchi says. “To be an athlete, a sumo wrestler, an entertainer, or a yakuza member is to engage in an unstable occupation that goes back to the same origin. To that extent, they have similar acquaintances and associate with one another.”
The journalist says that for an office worker to be dealing with such a sum of money would be unimaginable, but a sports athlete can carry a sense of composure in such a situation. He adds that sportsmen also generally lack common sense in dealing with money.
“Sports athletes do not live the same way as salarymen or government workers,” Mizouguchi says. “An injury will end a career. Their lives are in constant flux. It is part of the world in which they live. From childhood, it is simply a matter of winning or losing in striving to become a professional.”
Mizoguchi explains that even though Hara may not have been familiar with the recipients of the funds, he likely did have an idea as to their background given that they travel in the same circles. “Rather than feeling threatened,” the writer says, “he felt like he was really paying off comrades.”
Last October, nationwide anti-gang legislation was enacted to prohibit ordinary citizens from doing business transactions with gangsters. Sports figures are expected to be keys in promoting the mandate. However, Mizoguchi says that gangsters and athletes have too many relationships that began in childhood for any substantial cooperation to exist.
“The incident with Hara is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Mizoguchi. “Other baseball players and stars in other sports make similar payoffs. People shouldn’t be surprised. This is just the start of the revelations.” (A.T.)
Source: “Mizoguchi Atsushi-shi ha ‘Hara kantoku ga moto boryokudanin ni 1oku en hodo’ wo do yonda ka?” Nikkan Gendai (June 21)
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