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Japan Racing Association terminates license of horse trainer over gangster ties

Horse trainer Michifumi Kono with jockey Kosei Miura in 2009
Michifumi Kono (Yukan Fuji)
TOKYO (TR) – The Japan Racing Association (JRA) this week revoked the license of a horse trainer over ties to a member of an organized crime group, with the move coming just prior to the enactment of new anti-gang legislation, reports Yukan Fuji (Sept. 28).

Michifumi Kono, 61, had his training license pulled on Monday by Zenichiro Kobayashi, JRA’s director of legal affairs, who, in a tersely worded statement, said, “While recognized to have associations with gangsters, Kono has disregarded requests to stop. As a trainer, he has a heavy responsibility. He should hold the position of disassociation. JRA does not approve of such actions.”

On March 31, JRA discovered that Kono had been swindled out of a 10 million yen by the Yamuguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest crime syndicate. Kono was questioned about the matter by JRA officials, and it was determined that he should forfeit his license.

JRA also confirmed that Kono’s underworld ties date back to 2006. As recently as 2009, Kono recognized a gang member as an acquaintance.

Kono’s dismissal is believed to have been in preparation for a new law. Beginning on October 1, nationwide anti-gang legislation will prohibit ordinary citizens from doing business transactions with gangsters.

In a similar move, Television personality Shinsuke Shimada resigned from show business earlier this year after it was revealed that he had a relationship with an upper member of the Yamaguchi-gumi.

Masaru Wakasa, the former deputy director of special investigations at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office, says that times are changing. “Various industries that have operated up until now with ties to organized crime are being forced to respond,” the lawyer explains. “In the world of sports, the problem with gangster associations has arisen in seat allocation, and the recent sumo scandal shows that sport to be no exception.”

However, there is a lot of nervousness and confusion.

“If momentum about excluding associations with gangsters starts, there is a danger that truly innocent people will be implicated for incidental contact with gangsters,” Wakasa continues. “Any sense of calmness will become lost in this ‘witch hunt,’ and social order may be disrupted in favor of supporting this ordinance.”

Kono started his career in racing in 1991 and has collected 493 wins. The article notes that 21-year-old jockey Kosei Miura, who is set to marry popular gravure idol Aki Hoshino, 34, was once under Kono’s tutelage.

“My partners are not recognized as gangsters,” Kono said Tuesday, denying the allegations. “As for the removal of my license, preparations are now underway for a lawsuit.”