By Steph Cockroft
An army of riot police dramatically surrounded a luxury mansion belonging to the leader of Japan's 'most violent yakuza syndicate' over allegations he killed an elderly man at point-blank range.
Satoru Nomura, 67, the leader of the Kudokai - acknowledged as one of the most dangerous yakuza crime syndicates in Japan - was driven away from his home by armed police after being arrested on suspicion of killing 70-year-old Kunihiro Kajiwara more than 15 years ago.
Television footage showed the armed officers - who were wearing helmets and bulletproof vests - descending on Nomura’s vast residence in Kitakyushu, western Japan, where they had a face-off with members of the syndicate at the gate of the house.
A silver car was then seen driving Nomura away from his home and into custody.
A police spokesman said: 'He is suspected of firing a gun at point-blank range (to kill the man) . . . and of shooting a weapon in public.'
The arrest relates to the death of Kunihiro Kajiwara, who was the head of the local fishermen’s cooperative in Fukuoka Prefecture.
Media reports said the killing, which took place in 1998, may have been in retaliation for refusing to give the yakuza preferential treatment for a public works deal involving a local port.
Four members of Kudokai were arrested in 2002 over the incident in Kitakyushu and two were later convicted.
Police also obtained an arrest warrant for the Kudokai's second in command man, Fumio Tanoue, 58, on suspicion of murder and other charges related to the 1998 killing.
Kudokai is one of the largest yakuza crime syndicates in the Kyushu region of western Japan. It is acknowledged as a particularly dangerous yakuza group by local governments because of its apparent willingness to target civilians, local reports said.
In July this year, the U.S. Treasury Department froze the assets of the Kudokai and its two top executives, Nomura and Tanoue. The Treasury Department also described yakuza in Japan as 'reputedly the world's largest criminal organisation with close to 60,000 members'.
The yakuza occupy a grey area in Japan's usually law-abiding society. Like the Italian Mafia and Chinese Triads, they engage in activities such as gambling, drugs, prostitution and loan sharking.
The gangs, which themselves are not illegal, have historically been tolerated by the authorities. Recent efforts have been made to cut off their sources of funding.
Possession and use of firearms in Japan is heavily regulated.