Yakuza: A tough mess to clean up

Originally published by Asia Times

This is the third of a five-part series on the yakuza’s still wide reach in Japan. Part one is herepart 2, here.

Lacking such tools as a specific RICO statute (directed against “racketeer influenced and corrupt organizations”), prohibitions on wiretapping and – until recently – plea-bargaining, Japanese law enforcement is often said to be hamstrung in dealing with the yakuza.

But the truth is, even if yakuza organizations themselves are not on their face illegal, the country has always had plenty of laws available to take on gangsters and their activities.The fundamental problem is that there has been and is now little or no political support for a concerted, serious move against organized crime.

That could be seen with much hyped and tightly written yakuza exclusionary laws, enacted with National Police Agency backing around 2010-2012, which prohibited any financial or business dealings with organized crime. While those laws were lauded as placing a death-grip on the yakuza, this has proved not to be the case. They had some effect at the margins of yakuza society, but overall the yakuza have adapted.

Upon his release after a lengthy prison term in 2011, Shinobu Tsukasa, top boss of the largest underworld syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi, offered this comment on the new Japanese police and government efforts to crack down on the yakuza:“We will adjust.”

About Grant Newsham

Grant Newsham is a Senior Fellow with the Center for Security Policy. He also is a Research Fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies focusing on Asia/Pacific defense, political and economic matters. Newsham is a retired U.S. Marine Colonel and was the first US Marine Liaison Officer to the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. He also served as reserve head of intelligence for Marine Forces Pacific, and was the U.S. Marine Attaché, US Embassy Tokyo on two occasions.