US Treasury Continues War on Yakuza Families

The Treasury Department is continuing its war against the US operations of Japanese crime syndicates by freezing the assets of a third major yakuza family.

The Inagawa-kai, third largest among all yakuza families, has been designated a transnational criminal organization by the US Treasury. The designation allows the freezing of all assets located inside US jurisdiction. It also allows the feds to ban US corporations and individuals from doing business with the family which operates many legitimate business interests in the US, as well as illegal ones like operating gambling parlors, smuggling drugs into the US and guns from the US into Japan.

Sanctions have also been imposed on two individuals identified as the Inagawa-kai’s leaders — family head Jiro Kiyota and his top lieutenant Kazuo Uchibori.

The Inagawa-kai, founded in 1949, is based in the Tokyo-Yokohama region. With 15,000 members, the Inagawa-kai was one of the first yakuza families to begin operating overseas. Historically a high proportion of its membership has been bakuto, tattooed itinerant gamblers, and it has focused its activity on illegal gambling. More recently the approximately 330 clans that make up the Inagawa-kai family have expanded into drug trafficking, prostitution, extortion and blackmail.

Yakuza occupy a quasi-legal status inside Japan, being tolerated by the government and, historically, even hired by the government and corporations to perform dirty jobs like breaking up labor strikes and recruiting young girls from Japan and other Asian nations to serve as sex slaves for the military. Yakuza families have also engaged in charitable or civic activities, including shipping tons of food, blankets and other supplies to victims of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The Treasury’s move against the Inagawa-kai follows its September designation of Sumiyoshi-Kai, Japan’s second largest yakuza family, as a transnational criminal organization. In February the Treasury had imposed sanctions on Yamaguchi-gumi, the biggest Japanese crime family. Its estimated 50,000 members comprise over half of all yakuza.