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Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011
Tokyo, Okinawa usher in antigang legislation
By ERIC JOHNSTON and TAKAHIRO FUKADA
Local ordinances prohibiting companies from trading with organized crime syndicates will be put into force Saturday in Tokyo and Okinawa with the expectation of stopping their cash flow funds and eventually putting the mob out of business.
Some legal experts welcome the moves by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Okinawa Prefectural Government, but they also urge local police to properly disclose to the general public detailed information about gangs so they can avoid trading with them and provide concrete examples of cases being banned by the new ordinances.
Tokyo and Okinawa are the last prefectures to enforce such measures against underworld syndicates.
Kiyoshi Hikita, a lawyer and head of a panel at the Japan Federation of Bar Associations on countermeasures against gangster intervention in private businesses, said the main objective of the new ordinances is to shut down gang money at the source by stopping their trade with corporations.
The new ordinances will pressure gangs to their annihilation, he said.
"The impact nationwide and especially doing this in Tokyo, where most companies have their head offices, is enormous," said Hikita, who gives the new ordinance high marks.
Tokyo's ordinance bans companies from providing any benefit to yakuza for the purpose of using their power. It also prohibits firms from providing syndicates with any benefit in order to help their activities.
For vicious acts, the Tokyo Metropolitan Public Safety Commission is set to urge or order both parties involved to stop such acts, and in some cases penalties will be imposed on violators.
The ordinance urges residents and others to include a special clause in their contracts with their business partners, saying they can cancel the contracts without advance notice if the business counterparts are found to have associations with crime syndicates.
As for real estate deals, the Tokyo ordinance says residents and others should not let gangster groups use their real estate for their offices, and they should make efforts to include a clause in contracts enabling them to cancel if the tenant turns out to have a relationship with gangsters.
The ordinance urges event organizers not to allow mobster participation.
The new ordinance is the subject of particular concern in the world of television entertainment, following revelations last month that popular TV celebrity Shinsuke Shimada associated with an Osaka-based senior member of the Yamaguchi-gumi crime syndicate, as reported by several weekly magazines and bloggers such as Hirofumi Hashimoto.
Shimada admitted he met with the gang leader on at least four occasions, but did not publicly state his name, and exchanged email with him. Following the news conference where he made these revelations, Shimada fled Tokyo and is now living in Okinawa.
With other popular entertainers who have long-standing ties with yakuza facing the prospect of being named and shamed if they're caught wining and dining with yakuza in Tokyo, Shimada's former talent agency, Yoshimoto Kogyo, was attempting damage control this week.
On Wednesday, company officials, including President Hiroshi Osaki, visited the Osaka Prefectural Police seeking assistance in dealing with Shimada and promising that the firm would enact measures to prevent entertainers from associating with gangsters.
"It's clear that no matter what form it takes, a determination not to allow any contact with criminal gangs is spreading," Osaki told reporters afterward.
As of this year, there are 22 organizations officially designated by the police as violent gangs. Direct membership is estimated at 34,600, and tens of thousands more are loosely affiliated with the top three gangs, the Yamaguchi-gumi, the Inagawa-kai and the Sumiyoshi-kai.
The Yamaguchi-gumi is based in Kobe, while the Inakawa-kai and Sumiyoshi-kai are based in Tokyo. Tokyo and Okinawa are also home to another two gangs each, while the remainder are scattered throughout Kanto, Shikoku and western Japan.
Five of the designated gangs are in Fukuoka Prefecture, which passed the nation's first prefectural antigang ordinance in April 2010. This was followed by nearly a dozen crime incidents, including the planting of explosives in buildings and shots fired at offices. Police have warned that gang violence could rise in other parts of the country, especially Tokyo, following the passage of similar ordinances.
Over the past year, Ehime, Kyoto, Hyogo, Aichi, and Kumamoto prefectures have enacted antigang ordinances designed to keep yakuza out of construction and real estate and, in Kyoto's case, to prevent them from entering the hotel and restaurant industries.