Treasury officials have slapped sanctions on Japan’s largest Yakuza organized crime syndicate, placing four senior officials of the Yamaguchi-Gumi on its blacklist, in addition to two companies the gang controls.
“By exposing this broad network of front companies and individuals supporting the Yamaguchi-gumi Yakuza syndicate we intend to disrupt the global financial infrastructure of this illicit transnational criminal organization,” Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a statement on Tuesday accompanying the announcement.
The Yamaguchi-Gumi dates back to a loose labor union of dockworkers in Kobe, the central Japanese coastal city, before World War II. It is considered by international authorities to be one of the world’s largest and wealthiest criminal organizations.
The gang is engaged in human trafficking, stock market manipulation, internet pornography, drug smuggling, weapons trafficking and white-collar crimes in conjunction with criminal affiliates across the globe.
It also engages in money laundering and real estate and construction kickback schemes using front companies within legitimate industries, to hide illicit proceeds.
To date, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has placed 21 individuals, 5 criminal syndicates, 2 subsidiary gangs, and 2 companies associated with the Yakuza on its sanctions list.
Tuesday’s move marks the first time that OFAC has targeted Yakuza-owned companies.
Yamaki KK, which owns the land for the Yamaguchi-gumi headquarters in Kobe, Japan, and Toyo Shinyo Jitsugyo KK, which manages the syndicate’s headquarters and real estate.
Individuals placed on the blacklist include: Utao Morio, former Yamaki chief executive; Chikara Tsuda, current Yamaki CEO; Yasuo Takagi, chief executive of Toyo Shinyo Jitsugyo; and Katsuaki Mitsuyasu, Toyo Shinyo Jitsugyo’s former chief.
The sanctions freeze all assets under U.S. jurisdiction of those named and prohibit U.S. individuals and firms from dealing with them.
In 2015, Japanese police confirmed that a faction of the Yamaguchi-Gumi split to form their own Yakuza group, taking about 30 percent of Yamaguchi-Gumi’s membership. The move sparked a major turf war across Japan, according to police.