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What would you buy with $200,000? A new car? A house? Maybe take a long vacation in Europe?

How about a high-ranking police officer?

While this may not be a sound investment for the average person, that was allegedly the going rate for the highest-ranking officers the Yamaguchi-gumi, a yakuza group, “bought” in Aichi Prefecture.

In a case that seems like something straight out of a movie, it has been revealed that the Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest yakuza group in Japan and one of the wealthiest criminal organizations in the world, may have procured informants in the Aichi police through extortion and bribery via their subsidiary group Koudou-kai.

Members of Koudou-kai, of which there are around 4,000 in Japan, are currently on trial for intimidating, blackmailing, and bribing police officers in the organized crime division. Additionally, the group has apparently gathered considerable personal and private information about many of the officers in the division, including their home addresses and license plate numbers.

▼The daimon, or emblem, of the Yamaguchi-gumiap3

In the ongoing trial, an officer who received threatening phone calls from the Koudou-kai said that he was certain that there were informants in the police. According to his testimony, a subordinate of Yoshinori Sato called on numerous occasions, saying such things as, “You don’t know what might happen to your daughter,” and, “About ten days ago, you sent out a request for protection for your family to the prefectural police.” The officer said that the caller mentioned specific information that only a few top officials knew.

Yoshinori Sato, the defendant at the center of the trail, is the leader of the “Blue Group,” which operates a number of brothels in Nagoya and provides funding to the Koudou-kai. A former prefectural police investigator took the stand to confirm that he had leaked information about police investigations into the brothels to Sato in exchange for cash and other rewards. However, police officials say that the former officer was not in a position to know details about the investigation when the intimidation occurred.

According to the testimony of a woman who had been in a relationship with Sato, the group leader had told her that “Even cops can be bought with money. The highest ranking ones can be had for 20,000,000 yen (US$200,394.58).”

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One lawyer who served as the head of the committee on racketeering and extortion for Aichi Prefecture’s bar association suggested that it was possible that the yakuza had been getting close to officers. He poetically asserted, “It’s necessary to completely squeeze out all of the pus,” meaning that the police needed to expunge all of the dirty cops from their ranks.

In 2011, it was revealed that the Koudou-kai private investigators had been shaking down cell phone store staff and judicial clerks to get private information about police officers. Sato was initially arrested in January of this year on allegations of intimidating police officers. And in May, Sato’s defense lawyer was arrested for obstruction of justice after telling the subordinate who made the threatening phone calls to run away. Over 30 people have already been arrested in relation to this case, though Sato has thus far denied everything.

Koudou-kai, unlike other yakuza groups, have taken a very aggressive stance against the police, refusing to talk or cooperate with the authorities. Operating overseas as well as in Japan, the group is seen as having become “mafia-like”, and the National Police Agency has even referred to them as a terrorist group. The US Treasury Department went so far as to freeze US-based assets controlled by the Yamaguchi-gumi.

The Koudou-kia has adopted “three noble principles” in relation to police officers: Don’t talk to them. Don’t let them into the office. Don’t give them any information. While this may seem obvious to many Westerners who perceive police and gangs as being strictly enemies, many yakuza groups willingly converse with and offer information to cops.

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Though the exact details of the Koudou-kai’s finances are unknown, a 2010 article in Kin’youbi, a weekly news magazine, indicated that the group possessed over 500 billion yen. Today, that would be worth about five billion US dollars, though with the exchange rate in 2010, it would have been closer to six billion. Kin’youbi quoted one person with insider knowledge of both Koudou-kai and the sumo world, which was undergoing a scandal related to gambling at the time, as saying, “The Koudou-kai are not bookies. They are the ones loaning money to the bookies.”

Japanese netizens reacted strongly to the news:

It’s because Japanese cops are crap!

They’re like dogs, if they can be bought.

There’s nothing that money can’t buy!

Well, money is righteousness.

Just because they say it doesn’t make it true. There’s a strong prejudice against the boryokudan [“violent groups,” official police terminology for the yakuza], so we can’t just swallow everything that’s said at this time.

The “excellent” Japanese police.

I already knew this.

Despite police crackdowns on organized crime, the Yamaguchi-kumi and Koudou-kai are still growing and not getting any nicer. We must admit that it hardly seems surprising for a group with their resources to be able to buy a few “high ranking cops” for $200,000, but it’s still unsettling.

Let’s just hope this all gets resolved quickly and peacefully.

Sources: Mainichi Newspaper, Jin115, Kin’youbi
Images: Wikipedia