Amid a massive and lucrative cleanup process for cleanup of disaster-stricken Fukushima prefecture in Japan, the yakuza – one of the oldest and most infamous Japanese organized crime groups – is taking advantage of the severe lack of manpower and the huge budget allocated by the central government for the prefecture’s cleanup.
With the Japanese central government expecting to spend trillions of yen for the cleanup of the prefecture which was struck by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami – not to mention the resulting nuclear catastrophe – the yakuza have been actively looking for ways to siphon some of the funds going towards the cleanup process. In Yamagata prefecture, the Yamagata District Court handed down an eight-month prison term to a 40-year-old former senior member of the yakuza who was skimming funds from workers hired without a staffing agency license. The accused hired the men to work for a company based in Yamagata Prefecture was subcontracted for a project commissioned by the Date city government. The man approached an acquaintance in the construction industry to “employ” seven workers that he had found – unemployed men who were eager for any kind of work – offering to pay them 12,000 yen (around 120 US dollars) a day for “simple jobs”. With the small amount of pay he promised them, the gang member siphoned off around 100,000 yen and 200,000 yen from the workers’ wages. “I expected that background checks would be lax because decontamination operations require large amounts of manpower,” the accused said. “I attempted to expand my business (by profiting from the work).” Prosecutors said in court that the man gave cuts to the crime syndicate he belonged to at the time, the yakuza group being the largest in Yamagata Prefecture with around 40 members.
“The Yamagata case is just the tip of the iceberg,” a prefectural police official said, alluding to the opinion that yakuza gangs are deeply embedded into the decontamination work in Fukushima. In the Yamagata case, the court’s decision was to give a shortened sentence, on the grounds that the accused had quit his criminal organization after the case surfaced. The accused was charged with violating the worker dispatch law, carrying a maximum one-year prison term or a 1 million yen fine. But the police are decrying that there have been many cases such as this where the convicted person receives a shortened sentence. “The law was set without anticipating the involvement of gangsters, so sentences tend to be light,” said a senior official with the Yamagata prefectural police.