The United States continues its fight against organized crime abroad. Yesterday, the United States Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, a powerful group within the Yakuza, the Japanese Mafia, and three of its bosses.
The sanctions are aimed at two Yakuza groups: The Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi and its core clan, the Yamaken-gumi, and Kunio Inoue, Osamu Teraoka, and Takashi Ikeda, three of its leaders. As a result of these actions, all U.S. assets of those designated are frozen, and Americans are prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.
The Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi was formed in September of 2015 when thirteen subsidiary gangs, including the Yamaken-gumi, broke away from their parent syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi, to form their own Yakuza group. Authorities estimate that approximately 30 percent of Yamaguchi-gumi’s membership went to the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, which now has roughly 7,000 members, including associates.
The three Yakuza bosses who were sanctioned yesterday, play an important role in their respective clans. Kunio Inoue is the leader of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi syndicate and Yamaken-gumi subsidiary gang. It was Inoue who declared the formation of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi by issuing a statement validating the departure of dissident factions from the Yamaguchi-gumi as a movement to protect the will of past Yamaguchi-gumi leaders.
After the split between the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi and the Yamaguchi-gumi, a gangland war has broken out throughout Japan, leading to several violent and deadly incidents.
Osamu Teraoka is the wakagashira, an upper-level boss, of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, and head of the Kyoyu-kai subsidiary gang. He also played a prominent role in the breakaway movement that led to the division of the Yamaguchi-gumi. He presides over the business operations of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi. He also lets the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi use the Kyoyu-kai headquarters as its base of operations.
And then there is the “money man,” Takashi Ikeda, who holds a key position in the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi as the shateigashira (leader among brothers of the godfather) and head of the Ikeda-gumi subsidiary gang. His nickname is based on the fact that he controls large amount of funds for the Yakuza. Before the split, Ikeda once held a position as the regional leader of Yamaguchi-gumi clans in nine prefectures and oversaw 3,580 Yamaguchi-gumi members.
The U.S. Treasury has now designated seventeen individuals and seven entities affiliated with the Yakuza. It marks the second time a second-tier Yakuza affiliate has been targeted; the first designation was of the Kodo-kai in April 2015. Tadashi Irie and Toshio Masaki, previously designated on December 19, 2013 as members of the Yamaguchi-gumi, have also joined the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, as indicated in the chart below.
The Japanese Yakuza itself was labeled a significant criminal organization by President Barack Obama in the summer of 2011 and ordered the Treasury Department to find ways to undermine its criminal activities around the world.
The Yakuza has criminal affiliates in Asia, Europe, and the Americas, where it uses front companies in legitimate industries, including construction, real estate, and finance, to launder money and hide illicit proceeds. In the United States, the Yakuza has been involved in drug trafficking and money laundering, specifically in California and Hawaii.
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