The influence of Japanese mobsters, known as yakuza, is growing with scandalous implications, and officials are promising to stop these crime syndicates.
Dumping the more traditional mob image of tough guys, this yakuza mob is putting on well-cut suits and entering the business world of shady deals, Agence France-Presse said
. Author Jake Adelstein, a former reporter in Japan, called the country’s biggest organized crime syndicate Yamaguchi-gumi, a “Goldman Sachs with guns.”
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Japanese mobsters have moved away from things like loan sharking and extortion into the world of insider trading, which can make a lot more money, Adelstein told AFP.
“They’re savvy investors. They like to gamble,” he told the news organization.
The yakuza are in a little bit of everything, from gambling and prostitution to protection rackets and drugs, AFP said. But unlike mob groups in other countries, yakuza have offices and have been “tolerated” by Japanese officials, AFP said.
But that may end as other countries ask Japan to crack down on the yakuza’s money laundering. The country’s banks are under scrutiny for loaning dollars to the crime syndicates, which the mob used to buy expensive cars — and they sometimes didn’t pay back the loans, AFP said.
The yakuza are a “not so well kept secret,” according to a 60 Minutes report
in 2009, which said the organizations trace their roots back to Samurai warriors and may have as many as 85,000 members.
The Japanese mob’s influence in the United States led to sanctions that were imposed last year, The Week said,
but it was unclear whether Japan would cooperate with enforcing those sanctions. The sanctions were in response to the yakuza’s participation in drugs, human trafficking, prostitution, and money laundering in the U.S., primarily in Hawaii and California, the U.S. Treasury Department told The Week.
The crackdown may be having some effect, with police reporting that mob members are down to 63,000 in 2012, a sharp decrease from the 2009 stats, AFP said. Still, the mob ties in Japanese society run deep, and the world is pushing Japan to take a hard stance.
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