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Yakuza expert: Yamaguchi-gumi split was due to economics

Shinobu Tsukasa of the Yamguchi-gumi
Shinobu Tsukasa of the Yamguchi-gumi

TOKYO (TR) — The recent split of the Yamaguchi-gumi into two factions likely means tough times await yakuza groups, journalist Atsushi Mizoguchi said in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Mizoguchi said that with the police now chasing gang bosses over tax evasion, it was just a matter of time before rifts began to emerge in the Yamaguchi-gumi, which is Japan’s biggest organized crime group.

“Money matters led the groups to split,” Mizoguchi said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. The Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi formed last month as a rival gang to the Yamaguchi-gumi. “The Yamaguchi-gumi was taking money from group bosses. Membership dues are 1.15 million yen for bosses, with further expenses of 100,000 yen (existing on top of that).”

On top of this, Mizoguchi said gifts given during summer and winter holidays, as well as a birthday presents for top boss Shinobu Tsukasa, meant that finances in organizations were worsening. “Shinobu Tsukasa is said to have made a billion yen a year, which is rumored not to have been subject to taxes,” the writer said.

All that changed this year, when the police swooped in on Satoru Nomura, the head of the Kudo-kai, which is based in Kitakyushu. “This led the National Police Agency to instruct regional organizations to try to prosecute bosses on charges of tax evasion,” said Mizoguchi.

The Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi is comprised of a number of gangs that bolted from the Yamaguchi-gumi. Mizoguchi also suggested that some of the leaders that switched allegiance to the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi may have data on their former boss that could be used against him in court.

Under the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, Mizoguchi says the bosses have it easier: Gift giving for summer, winter and birthdays is banned; membership fees are also about four times lower. This, he argues, means one should not rule out the smaller Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi.

“Normally, when members of a yakuza group leave an organization, they are likely to lose any struggle,” he said. But this time, with sympathetic groupings remaining in the Yamaguchi-gumi, things are more complicated. “The Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi has momentum and could be victorious,” he said. “This is what I suspect will be the case.”

That does not mean there will be battles on the streets of Japan’s cities. Laws ensure that a boss can be arrested if a killing is linked back to his organized crime group. “The leaders are reluctant to get into a struggle,” Mizoguchi said. “But the gangs can do business by raiding the economic areas of rivals. This could expand and lead to a bigger conflict.”

All this at a time when the police are using new measures, particularly those related to tax evasion, to clamp down on yakuza could mean organized crime faces the beginning of the end. “This split may be the last in the Yamaguchi-gumi, which could mean (we face) the end of the history of that organization.”