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Expansion of anti-gang legislation may give unwanted results

Spa! Jan. 25
Spa! Jan. 25

Following a nationwide push, gangsters in Tokyo are preparing for pending legislation that will crack down upon their traditional rackets — a development that may provide citizens with more than they bargained for, reports weekly tabloid Spa! (Jan. 25).

“Dealing with organized crime is this year’s top priority for police forces in Japan,” said Takaharu Ando, the commissioner general of the National Police Agency, at a press conference on January 6.

A special law to eliminate boryokudan groups, as yakuza criminal syndicates are referred, originated in the Kyushu region last year and quickly spread to 27 prefectures, including Hokkaido. It is expected that similar legislation will soon be enacted in all 47 prefectures of the country.

“Tokyo aims to enact such a law this spring after it has incorporated elements of legislation already in place in other parts of the country,” added Ando. “It will likely become the most comprehensive one of them all.”

Top boryokudan groups are now organizing study sessions for top members, which includes having attorneys give monthly lectures. They are learning, for example, that not disclosing one’s real occupation upon signing a lease contract can lead to an arrest warrant for fraud.

“This is a big blow,” explains a senior-level member of a Tokyo-based boryokudan group.

The tabloid senses that boryokudan groups are indeed pushing themselves for survival, as evidenced by the extensiveness of the training materials used during the lectures. But along with these activities, local residents around the country are taking initiative. At the end of last year, a notable gangster office in Ikebukuro was removed follow action by local residents.

“The police support the residents,” says the same top-level gang member. “Even when the building is owned, not rented, by gangsters, police will pressure residents and property management associations to push for their elimination. Residents are of course hesitant because they are afraid of yakuza.”

Should boryokudan groups be left out of the picture, however, disarray of social order can result, the article believes. When yakuza groups, which will reconcile troubles, are no longer available, visible bullying starts.

A hostess working in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho entertainment district heard from her male colleague about one particular kyabakura club that didn’t pay a security fee to a yakuza gang on the third of each month, which in the business is known as mikajimeryo. “They were worried about the police, and a competitor drove them out of business,” she says.

The club, which originally opened last summer, shut this winter because foreign objects had been jammed into toilets to damage the plumbing. “When the building owner asked for compensation of around 5 million yen, the manager disappeared,” she continues. “Another club also went out of business because a dead dog was left outside its back door and girls stopped showing up to work because they were scared.”

Another example is a fire that occurred last September at a club in Nagoya, which resulted in a hostess and a male customer receiving severe burns. “The media reported that fire was due to the club not paying a security fee to the yakuza,” explains one street tout. “But rumors were circulating that the club’s competitors were behind it. That particular chain of clubs was known for not paying. Since the market is small in Nagoya, without yakuza, there can be no order.”

Club organizers are also worried. “Yakuza members are ready to take care of trouble. So if they are not around no one will follow the ‘no drugs and fights’ rule at any particular event,” explains a DJ. “If drugs are deliberately left in the bathroom area (by a competitor), knowing that the police will come in to check, the whole club will be busted. It is simply not feasible to run a club without yakuza protection.”

An investigator from a prefectural police agency responsible for yakuza activities feels short-changed. “I am frustrated by this initiative from top management,” the source says. “What is most risky is that the gangsters will become no longer visible. The relationships we’ve had with key members for exchanging information regarding organizational structures, schedules, and locations are to be no more.”

Elimination of boryokudan will actually take some matters into high risk areas, with the sale of drugs being an example.

“There is no order with regard to illicit drugs,” explains one pusher. “Without the yakuza, there will be a higher volume of low quality drugs circulating. We can only sell cheap blends to middle school kids and high school kids. But undesirable foreigners will sell to even elementary school kids.”

Secret banking and fraud, too, may get ugly without yakuza involvement. “Yakuza gangs make sure not to kill those in debt to loan sharks,” explains one underground loan broker. “But without them, it may get to a point where those involved will go after the borrowers to sell their organs or murder them for life insurance fraud. We will no longer be able to call it soft finance.”

Funding for surviving boryokudan groups will as well become more closed but not extinct. “Yakuza front company will have to be disclosed,” says one senior gang member. “But in the Kansai area yakuza money is spread wide, from bento companies to the construction industry. In Kanto, it’s from real estate to online shopping. This money is also invested in major construction companies, used by private investors, and provided to organizers of underground fighting games. They will only become more clever in terms of how they play the masquerade with their front companies.”

Organizations such as Kanto-rengo, which received media attention following last year’s drunken brawl of Ebizo Ichikawa, could take up some boryokdan activities since they are not registered as organized crime entities.

“With boryokudan groups gone,” says another investigator, “there is a concern that these entities could be the source of problems. They have some older guys who teach their younger members the tools of the trade. Vertical relationships in their hierarchy are much more loose in comparison to boryokudan groups. It could lead to chaos. Once the boryokudan groups are eliminated, they could do anything, including targeting ordinary citizens at random.”

Roppongi and Shinjuku still maintain a sense of order even with the influx of undesirable foreigners as yakuza gangs are still in control. “It is Ikebukuro that is becoming like a Chinatown,” says the same senior-level gang member first quoted in the article. “Okubo became Koreatown around it’s border. The locals are free to do whatever. With undesirable foreigners, there will be more drugs and stealing.

“Yakuza gangs have to find ways to survive,” the source continues, “so they may welcome undesirable foreigners onto their turf depending on the area.”

One may postulate that boryokudan groups are totally fading, but that is not so, the magazine concludes. “If they are being underestimated, they will use the lives of ordinary citizens to display their power. In the past, when a shooting resulted in injuries to ordinary citizens, this would be followed by arrests of yakuza members who had agreed to internally report to the police. Now that will be no longer the case.” (K.N.)

Source: “Boryokudan haijo de chian ga akka shita,” Spa! (January 25, pages 26-27)