Japan sees Yakuza branching out to startup investing, insider trading, corporate lending - AFP

By Rizza Sta. Ana

Dec 02, 2013 01:10 AM EST

A report by French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) said that mobster groups in Japan are now being seen in the corporate world. The report also added that local crime syndicates, or Yakuza in Japanese, are now into business startup investments and even insider trading.

Crime writer Jake Adelstein, who labeled the Japan's biggest organised crime group Yamaguchi-gumi as "Goldman Sachs with guns," said, "Insider trading has become huge -- you can make much more money manipulating stocks (than extorting businesses). They're savvy investors. They like to gamble."

The association of yakuza to corporate Japan came to light as the US Treasury Department had been working to freeze the foreign assets of top crime groups in Japan. The Treasury Department had said that the crime groups made billions in dollars yearly from illicit proceeds. The crackdown on yakuza, said AFP, intensified in September after Mizuho Bank said it provided some members of organized crime groups loans. At least four other major banks including Japan's biggest bank Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group also repeated sa same admission.

Ritsumeikan University professor of financial law Toshihiko Kubo said, "It is baffling that Mizuho board members failed to act. Once they learned that loan recipients were related to the mob, they should have taken immediate action."

An anti-yakuza campaigner in Tokyo, who refused to be named, said Japan's need to tighten its banking rules should be done immediately. The campaigner added, "Crime syndicates...are out to make money, and they'll use whatever means available. Many companies are trying not to deal with organised crime...But It's difficult to filter everything because their methods are also becoming sophisticated."

AFP pointed out that yakuza in Japan are treated as legal entities unlike in other foreign counterparts, and have offices in some of the major cities in Japan. Moreover, AFP said in its report that historically, Japanese authorities had been tolerating the yakuza's activities despite periodic clampdowns.

Adelstein argued, "There are lots of politicians that, in some sense, owe their positions to yakuza support back in old days, so clearly their influence is not non-existent. It's still a bizarre system because Japan's organised crime groups are legal entities. They are regulated but not banned."

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