Japanese crime boss arrested after Yakuza tattoos exposed

Source:AFP Published: 2018/1/11 21:43:40

A retired Japanese crime boss has been arrested in Thailand ending more than 14 years on the run after photos of his "Yakuza" tattoos and a missing little finger went viral.

The fugitive, Shigeharu Shirai, 72, was arrested by a SWAT team on Wednesday in the sleepy central Thai market town of Lopburi while he was out shopping.

Japanese authorities have called for his arrest over an alleged role in the shooting of a rival in Japan in 2003, after which he fled to Thailand, married a Thai woman and drifted into a seemingly peaceful retirement.

That was until a Thai local posted some photos of the diminutive, frail-looking retiree playing a street side checkers game with his intricate gang tattoos on full show and a missing little finger - Yakuza members often slice off the tip of a finger to atone for an offence.

The photos were shared more than 10,000 times online and caught the attention of Japanese police, who asked the Thai authorities to move in.

"The suspect admitted that he was the leader of the Yakuza sub-gang Kodokai," Thai police spokesman General Wirachai Songmetta said.

The Yakuza emerged in the chaos of post-war Japan turning into multi-billion-dollar criminal organizations involved in everything from gambling, drugs and prostitution to loan sharking, protection rackets and white-collar crime.

They were long tolerated as a necessary evil to keep order on the streets and getting things done quickly - however dubious the means.


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