TOKYO (TR) – Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denied he has any ties to organized crime the same day that weekly tabloid Shukan Post (Oct. 26) published a photo of the politician standing next to a known associate of Japan’s largest criminal organization.
On Monday, Abe, the current president of the Liberal Democratic Party, denied any links to gangsters despite his appearance in a photo from June 2008 that shows the politician being flanked on both sides by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Icchu Nagamoto, a financial broker for the Yamaguchi-gumi, who was arrested earlier this year for violating money-lending laws.
“As to close connections, there are none,” Abe said, referring to organized crime.
Huckabee, who had dropped his candidacy in the U.S. Republican presidential primary elections three months earlier, was in Japan on a one-week tour. On his Web site, he indicated that he visited Tohoku University and met with the Governor of Hokkaido.
The Shukan Post article says that the photo was taken inside Abe’s office within the Members’ Office Buildings of the National Diet around the time when Huckabee arrived in the country. The photo is now hanging inside a frame on the wall of a room in an unidentified residence in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.
Abe, the native of Yamaguchi Prefecture whose administration extended for 12 months between 2006 and 2007, said that the only time he met Nagamoto was on that day. “I have had no contact (with the financial broker) since the time the photograph was taken,” said the former prime minister.
Nagamoto, who is of Korean descent and also goes by the name Son Il-ju, was arrested in March of this year after returning to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport from Korea. He was accused of assisting in a fabricated capital increase scheme for mid-level construction firm Inoue Kogyo, located in Gunma Prefecture.
“He’s in the loan-sharking business,” a business associate tells the tabloid. “If you want to make profit from business dealings with shady figures, you demand a high rate of interest with real estate as collateral.”
The source goes on to say that Nagamoto (known as “the Blackmarket King”) has been making a killing through new stock listings and fabricated capital increases. “He can come up with a one billion-yen loan in no time flat,” the associate says.
News reports released after Nagamoto’s arrest indicate that police investigators consider his consulting company, called Shinsho, also located in Setagaya, to be directly connected to the Yamaguchi-gumi.
The tabloid says that the financial broker also has connections in the sports and entertainment worlds. The tabloid cites a source saying that Nagamoto in September 2009 attended a lavish birthday party for Mongolian-born former sumo yokozuna Asashoryu in Tokyo’s Daikanyama area.
Abe’s office responded to an inquiry from Shukan Post regarding the photo by saying that Abe met with Huckabee following a request made by a local supporter. “The Huckabee party who visited this office consisted of more than one person,” wrote a representative of Abe, “The person (Nagamoto) is not an acquaintance, and there is no recollection of having met him.”