US freezes Japanese gangsters’ assets


The US has entered the fight against Japanese organized crime by freezing the American-owned financial assets of two groups: Japan’s Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza and the Brothers’ Circle.

The Treasury Department announced yesterday that it was also freezing the assets of nine key members of both groups, including Kenichi Shinoda, the Yamaguchi-gumi leader.

No details were given on the value of the frozen assets.

President Barack Obama issued an executive order in July to “target and disrupt significant transnational criminal organizations,” but this is the first time measures have been imposed, according to the BBC.

Under the terms of the order members of organized crime gangs could be identified, their assets in the US frozen and their supporters banned from carrying out any transactions in the US.

The Yamaguchi-gumi group earns “billions of dollars” every year from crimes inside and outside Japan, including human and drug trafficking, prostitution, money laundering and fraud, the US Treasury Department said in a statement yesterday.

David S. Cohen, Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said: “They use our financial system, they use our commercial system to both penetrate the markets, to disrupt the markets and to make use of their illicit proceeds.”

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Thursday’s sanctions are the latest blow to Japan’s 80,000 yakuza gangsters, who are under increasing pressure at home due to the aggressive enforcement of laws that prevent ordinary citizens from knowingly associating or accepting business from gang members, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Yamaguchi-gumi, which has its base in a two-building complex in a residential neighbourhood in Tokyo, was estimated to represent 44 percent of Japan’s yakuza gangsters in December 2010, Bloomberg reported.

Kenichi Shinoda is the group’s sixth-generation leader. He was released from prison in April after serving a six-year sentence for illegally owning firearms. 

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