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Editorial: Death sentence for yakuza boss a severe rebuke for attack on civilians

The Fukuoka District Court has handed down the death penalty to Satoru Nomura, head of the designated dangerous crime syndicate Kudo-kai based in the Fukuoka Prefecture city of Kitakyushu, for charges including one murder. It is reportedly the nation's first capital sentence imposed on a designated crime syndicate leader.

    In all of the four cases he was charged for, regular citizens were targets. The recent verdict severely condemned the atrocities caused by the yakuza boss.

    There was no physical evidence that Nomura was involved in the incidents in question, and the point of his trial was focused on whether he had ordered those who executed the attacks to commit them.

    The court ruled that Nomura had been the mastermind behind all the cases, judging that Kudo-kai's organizational hierarchy was strict and that subordinate members would have been unlikely to act without direction from the top. While the number of deaths in those cases was one, the court recognized that the nature of the crimes was extremely malicious as they were carried out in a systematic and premeditated manner.

    Kudo-kai has in separate cases harmed regular residents. In at least one case they threw grenades into a restaurant which had been campaigning for an anti-yakuza movement.

    Police and public prosecutors launched what they called "operation summit" seven years ago, and charged the group's leadership. In a crime syndicate, orders from those at the top are supposed to be absolute, and busting these figures is the most effective way to weaken the organization.

    Separately from the four cases tried recently, Nomura has been charged with income tax evasion over payments made to Kudo-kai.

    In civil lawsuits, rulings that recognize the responsibility of yakuza leadership for damage caused by crime syndicates are becoming common. As special fraud cases including faked emergency scams have become a source of income for organized crime groups, Supreme Court rulings ordering yakuza leaders to pay compensation have been finalized.

    The ruling against Nomura will have a major effect on future investigations into crime syndicates all the more because it is a criminal case, which must meet a more stringent evidentiary standard in court.

    Since the organized crime prevention law came into effect in 1992, efforts have been made to contain these groups' activities.

    The number of yakuza members and associates across Japan has dropped by over 60% in the past decade. However, conflicts between different groups continue, and concerns over risks of collateral damage involving regular residents have not been dispelled. People also get financially exploited by the gangs, including cases of crime groups demanding local eateries pay protection money.

    But yakuza syndicates are not the only concern. Criminal groups whose organizational structures remain mysterious have also emerged.

    Police forces need to put continuous effort into cracking down on the organized crime syndicates while working with local communities. To eradicate anti-social criminal activities, a framework is indispensable to help those who have left these groups reintegrate into society.

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