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Fraud victims sue top gang bosses for ¥220 million in Tokyo court

The emblem of the Sumiyoshi-kai
The emblem of the Sumiyoshi-kai

TOKYO (TR) – Last week, fraud victims filed a lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court seeking about 220 million yen in damages from an organized crime group in what could prove to be a landmark case, reports the Sankei Shimbun (June 30).

The lawsuit, filed on June 30 under the Act for the Prevention of Wrongful Acts by Members of Organized Crime Groups, seeks to hold top members of the Sumiyoshi-kai, including top boss Shigeo Nishiguchi, 87, and chairman Isao Seki, 70, as “employers” for underlings in so-called “special fraud” cases, in which victims are conned in fictitious investments.

According to their suit, the plaintiffs are seven women, aged between 63 and 86. Living in the Kanto and Kinki regions, they are seeking between 7.5 million yen and 85 million yen.

Over a seven-month period to July of 2014, the perpetrators falsely claimed to the victims by telephone that they had received special eligibility to buy bonds. Cash for the supposed purchases was then sent by the victims to the criminals in the postal mail.

These types of frauds are believed to be sources of funds for criminal organizations, according to the Mainichi Shimbun (June 30). In 2015, one third of the 826 persons arrested or prosecuted for special frauds were connected to gangs, according to the National Police Agency.

In 2014 and 2015, police arrested 33 persons connected to the Sumiyoshi-kai on charges of fraud. In those cases, investigators suspect that the group has swindled approximately 170 elderly victims nationwide out of as much as 1.5 billion yen.

However, upper-ranking gangsters, like Nishiguchi and Seki, have managed to avoid arrest.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are seeking that top-ranking gangsters take “employer responsibility” for the crimes. Such an unprecedented demand could prove to be a deterrent for similar crimes the future, the plaintiffs believe.

Isao Seki
Isao Seki

“A lawsuit like this will be a big force in cutting off funding for gangs,” said Akira Takeuchi, a lawyers for the plaintiffs at a press conference on June 30.

According to a representative of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, the suit could also assist in the return of lost funds.

“If the suit is upheld, not only will it lead to the weakening of the gang groups but it will set a precedent in the recovery of losses, which to this point has been difficult,” said the representative.