The U.S. Treasury Department took aim Tuesday at Japan’s largest yakuza syndicate, placing four senior officials of the Yamaguchi-gumi on its sanctions blacklist as well as two companies tied to the gang.
“We are ramping up pressure on this dangerous Japanese crime syndicate and local gang leaders who profit from everything from sexual exploitation, to weapons smuggling, and extortion,” said Sigal Mandelker, the treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
The two companies placed on the sanctions list were Yamaki K.K., which owns the land where the Yamaguchi-gumi headquarters in Kobe is located, and Toyo Shinyo Jitsugyo K.K., which manages the headquarters as well as other real estate used in the syndicate’s diverse businesses.
The individuals hit with sanctions were Utao Morio, manager of the headquarters and former chief executive of Yamaki; Chikara Tsuda, current Yamaki CEO; Yasuo Takagi, chief executive of Toyo Shinyo Jitsugyo; and Katsuaki Mitsuyasu, the latter company’s former chief.
The sanctions freeze any assets of those named that are under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibit U.S. individuals and companies from dealing with them.
“By exposing this broad network of front companies and individuals supporting the Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza syndicate we intend to disrupt the global financial infrastructure of this illicit transnational criminal organization,” said Mandelker in a statement.
Yakuza groups have ties with criminal affiliates in Asia, Europe and the Americas, where they use front companies in legitimate industries including construction, real estate and finance to launder money and hide illicit proceeds, according to the Treasury Department.
In the United States, they have been accused of money laundering and drug trafficking.
In 2011, then-U.S. President Barack Obama issued an executive order to impose financial sanctions on transnational criminal organizations.
The sanctions now target 21 individuals, five criminal syndicates, two subsidiary gangs and two companies associated with yakuza groups.