Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ministers Falling Due to Yakuza Ties

It was reported last week that the newly appointed Minister of Justice Keishu Tanaka (Democratic Party of Japan) had strong ties to the Japanese mafia. This Thursday, Japan’s respected weekly news magazine, Shukan Bunshun, ran an article on how Japan’s Minister of Finance Koriki Jojima, was supported by a yakuza front company during his election campaign. Minister Tanaka is expected to resign Friday (Japan time). If he does, he’ll be the second Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) appointed cabinet minister since 2009 to resign after exposure of yakuza ties. Not a good thing for the DPJ, which came to power as “the clean party.”

Last Thursday the weekly magazine Shukan Shincho was the first to write that Minister Tanaka had long running ties to the Inagawa-kai. The Inagawa-kai, Japan’s third-largest crime group, was founded as Inagawa-Kogyo circa 1948 and their current headquarters are across the street from the Ritz Carlton Tokyo; they have 10,000 members. According to the police, since 2007 the group has been under the umbrella of the Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest yakuza group in the country, with 39,000 members. Kazuo Uchibori, the leader of the Inagawa-kai, was arrested this month on money-laundering charges. The Tokyo Prosecutor’s Office (TPO) has not yet decided whether to prosecute him. The TPO is also part of the Ministry of Justice, headed by Mr. Tanaka.

The Shincho article alleges Tanaka has long relied on the support of the Inagawa-kai in his political and business dealings and had participated in many Inagawa-kai events—including serving as a matchmaker (仲人, nakoudo) at the wedding of an underboss. The piece also states that the Inagawa-kai suppressed scandalous rumors about Tanaka’s life, involving a tawdry love affair. The underboss responsible for handling the negative PR matters allegedly told would-be extortionists, “Tanaka was the matchmaker at my wedding. Save my face—forgive and forget about it.”

The Daily Beast spoke with Inagawa-kai members and police officers from Kanagawa Prefecture who confirmed that Tanaka did indeed have strong ties to the Inagawa-kai, until at least two years ago.

Tanaka has admitted to attending Inagawa-kai events in the past, including the wedding, but has denied the rest of the allegations.

Sen. Shoji Nishida who has investigated and written about the ties of some DPJ members to the mob in WILL magazine (November 2011) says, “Tanaka is the 4th DPJ-coalition-appointed minister with yakuza ties. I wonder if they even screen the people they put in cabinet positions. The minister of Justice is supposed to be the watchdog of the law, not a matchmaker for the yakuza. Putting a yakuza associate in charge of Japan’s criminal-justice system ... that’s outrageous. Now I can understand why the Yamaguchi-gumi endorsed their party.”

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