The Chicago Syndicate: Yakuza
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Showing posts with label Yakuza. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yakuza. Show all posts

Monday, April 23, 2018

Codes of the Underworld: How Criminals Communicate

Bada-bing. For some people, The Godfather is no mere movie but a manual – a guide to living the gangster's life. They lap up all that stuff about going to the mattresses and sleeping with the fishes. The famous scene in which a mafia refusenik wakes up next to a horse's head may be macabre make-believe, but in some quarters it's treated like a tutorial.

So who are these apparent innocents taking their cues from Hollywood? None other than the mafia themselves, writes Diego Gambetta in his new book, Codes of the Underworld: How Criminals Communicate. The Oxford sociologist offers example upon example of gangsters apeing Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece – or what he calls "lowlife imitating art".

There's the Don who took over a Sicilian aristocrat's villa for his daughter's wedding – with 500 guests revelling to the film's soundtrack; the building contractors of Palermo who receive severed horse's heads if they get in the mob's way; and John Gotti's former lieutenant, Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, who confessed that plagiarism ranked among his (lesser) crimes: "I would always tell people, just like in The Godfather, 'If you have an enemy, that enemy becomes my enemy.'"

Yet Mario Puzo, The Godfather's inventor, admitted that he "never met a real honest-to-God gangster", while many of the film's most quotable lines (remember "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli"?) were improvised. So what accounts for its influence not just among the mafia but with Hong Kong triads, Japanese yakuza and Russian mobsters?

Well, strip away the mystique and organised crime is a business – one with big handicaps. It may be called "the Firm", but managing a poorly educated, violent workforce is a challenge, advertising job vacancies only attracts the law, and appraisals for underperforming staff can err on the brusque side. The Godfather and other gangster movies plug those holes, says Gambetta. They give criminals an easy-to-follow protocol and a glamour that serves as both corporate feelgood and marketing tool. Uncomfortable though it may be to acknowledge, the underworld is not above taking its cues from the upperworld.

Thanks to Aditya Chakrabortty

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Japan is Bracing for War among 'Yakuza' Crime Gangs

Japan is bracing for war.

Not with other countries, but with the nation's notorious gangsters.

A 43-year-old man was gunned down in the parking lot of a hot springs resort in western Japan earlier this month in what authorities say they fear could be the start of a deadly war among the nation's largest organized crime gangs, known collectively as the yakuza.

The powerful Yamaguchi-gumi crime syndicate, which marked its 100th anniversary this year, split into two rival groups in September. Police arrested a member of the Yamaguchi-gumi in the hot springs shooting and identified the victim as a member of the breakaway group.

Analysts said the rupture was due to long-running disputes over succession plans and high fees that member groups were required to pay Yamaguchi-gumi leaders.

Japan’s National Police Agency warned of possible gang violence at an emergency meeting of senior officials from each of the country's 47 prefectures shortly after the split. "We don't have specific information thus far that the rift will develop into inter-gang conflicts, but there were incidents in the past which involved civilians," Takashi Kinoshita, chief of the JNPAs organized crime division, said at the meeting in early September, according to local media.

A dispute over the gang’s leadership in the early 1980s led to a two-year war that left an estimated 30 gangsters dead, 70 others wounded and more than 500 in police custody. However, there are no statistics on the number of civilians killed or injured in the violence.

Today, local news media report that yakuza groups are beginning to stockpile weapons and recruit members to carry out potential hits. The price of a handgun sold on the black market has risen from $2,500 to $10,000 in recent weeks, according to Asahi Shimbun, a leading mainstream newspaper.

Legal firearms are highly restricted in Japan. In a nation of roughly 127 million people, Japan had just 35 cases of firearm shootings in 2010, according to the most recent data available from the National Police Agency's “Crime in Japan” report.

Last month, in the western Japanese city of Toyama, one yakuza group paraded as many as 100 gangsters down a busy street in a show of strength. Two nights later, a rival group did the same nearby, Kyodo News Service reported. Authorities responded by sending scores of police to raid each group's headquarters, according to Kyodo.

Police estimate that Yamaguchi-gumi had about 10,000 core members and about 14,000 affiliated members before the split. About one-third are believed to have broken off to form a rival organization, called the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi.

Atsushi Mizoguchi, a journalist and author who has written extensively on the yakuza, said it is unlikely that senior leaders would order a full-on war. But he said at least some violence is likely as rival groups fight for turf.

“If organized criminals were able to establish viable revenues by invading the domain of others … it could lead to skirmishes in various places around the country. That could expand and eventually could well lead to a (violent) struggle,” Mizoguchi said at a Tokyo press briefing this week.

Jake Adelstein, a Tokyo journalist and authority on organized crime, is less sure. He points to the case of Tadamasa Goto, a yakuza boss who was ordered to pay $1.2 million in damages to the family of a real estate agent murdered by members of his gang in 2012. Although Goto was not charged in the death, he was still held liable.

“The situation is very different from what it was in the '80s,” Adelstein said. “It's not economically wise to have a gang war. The general public is no longer tolerant of yakuza conflict. It's costly to kill people.”

Yakuza gangs, long tolerated as a “necessary evil” in Japan, have been in slow decline since organized crime countermeasures were enacted in the early 1990s. Many gangs still operate semi-openly, however, with headquarters, business cards and legitimate-appearing front companies.

Yakuza engage in a variety of “serious criminal activities, including weapons trafficking, prostitution, human trafficking, drug trafficking, fraud and money laundering,” according to a February 2012 report from the U.S. Treasury Department. Extortion, loan-sharking and “protection” rackets also are common yakuza activities in Japan.

President Obama issued an executive order in 2011 designating the yakuza as a “transnational criminal organization.” The Treasury Department has since frozen assets in the U.S. of more than a dozen yakuza bosses — including the leaders of the Yamaguchi-gumi and the breakaway Kodo-kai gang — and has forbidden Americans from doing business with them.

In a report issued in April, the Treasury Department labeled the Kodo-kai “the most violent faction within the Yamaguchi-gumi” and said the yakuza has engaged in drug trafficking and money laundering in the United States, but did not provide details. There is no indication that any yakuza violence as a result of the recent split could spread to the U.S.

Thanks to Kirk Spitzer.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan

Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)is a riveting true-life tale of newspaper noir and Japanese organized crime from an American investigative journalist.

Jake Adelstein is the only American journalist ever to have been admitted to the insular Tokyo Metropolitan Police Press Club, where for twelve years he covered the dark side of Japan: extortion, murder, human trafficking, fiscal corruption, and of course, the yakuza. But when his final scoop exposed a scandal that reverberated all the way from the neon soaked streets of Tokyo to the polished Halls of the FBI and resulted in a death threat for him and his family, Adelstein decided to step down. Then, he fought back. In Tokyo Vice he delivers an unprecedented look at Japanese culture and searing memoir about his rise from cub reporter to seasoned journalist with a price on his head.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

#Yakuza Organized Crime Members Drop to Lowest Level since 1992

The number of people belonging to yakuza groups in Japan has declined to its lowest level since the anti-organized crime law took effect in 1992, a national police survey showed Thursday.

The survey, carried out by the National Police Agency, revealed that there were approximately 58,600 crime group members operating in Japan as of the end of 2013, down about 4,600 from a year earlier. These numbers continue a downward trend which may be the result of a strengthened police crackdown and measures taken by the government to limit crime syndicates’ means of financing.

Nevertheless, the survey revealed a notable increase in organized crimes in the western prefecture of Hiroshima. Of 23 cases of armed attacks by crime syndicates on corporations in Japan, 16 occurred in Hiroshima last year, the agency said. Police records showed no attacks on companies had occurred in 2011 and 2012.

Investigations of cases in Hiroshima Prefecture involving yakuza members suggest they are stepping up activities in commercial areas, an agency official said.

Police also investigated 27 cases related to rivalries between yakuza groups in 2013, none of which resulted in death or injury to civilians, the survey said.


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