Crime lords getting shaken down by telecom giants.

Although they have to deal with the cutthroat struggle for businesses and territory regularly, you would think that yakuza bosses balance things out by enjoying the finer things in life like expensive meals and state-of-the-art electronics.

However, when it comes to smartphones, it appears that a lot of the upper brass in these groups are unable to upgrade from those old flip phones, known as “garakei” or “feature phones” in Japan. This is becoming more of a pressing problem as the big three telecom companies – Au, SoftBank, and DoCoMo – are either ready to drop 3G service or already have.

Even fans of these older styles of mobile phones for their simplicity and reliability are able to get newer versions with 4G capability, but that is still not an option for older yakuza. The reason is that they have been unable to sign a contract since 2011.

That was when prefectural governments passed “Organized Crime Exclusion Ordinances” (Boryokudan Haijo Jorei) across the country, preventing companies from doing business with members of the yakuza. Since then mobile phone service providers’ contracts require signees to swear they are not members of such groups, to avoid liability in the event a customer turns out to be a mobster.

▼ The phones themselves can be bought secondhand easily enough, but it’s the SIM card that’s the problem

Image: Pakutaso

It might seem odd that these people appear to be above simply lying on the contract, but they have good reason not to. High ranking members in particular are under increased scrutiny by the police who are looking for any excuse to arrest them, and with a cut-and-dry case of contract fraud, the authorities can more thoroughly investigate their business. Another workaround would be to just get someone else to make that contract, but that too constitutes fraud and leads to the same results.

This isn’t just paranoia talking either. In 2017, Kunio Inoue, head of the Kobe Yamaguchi-Gumi, was arrested for fraud when he and a female accomplice conspired to get a new phone. The charges themselves didn’t amount to much but it allowed the Hyogo Prefectural Police to search the group’s headquarters and investigate other members.

In 2020, the Hokkaido Prefectural Police picked up a 46-year-old yakuza member for fraud because he signed a mobile contract in 2018 which had a clause in which he declared he was not a part of the group.  Although not connected to smartphones, a similar incident also happened in 2019 when a member was arrested for signing a similar contract to get a part-time job at a post office.

▼ When it comes to solid evidence, the pen is mightier than the sword

Image: Pakutaso

As a result of all this, yakuza members are safer sticking with the contracts that they signed prior to 2011 and will ride those out as long as possible. That is why you’ll rarely, if ever, see an older yakuza member with a smartphone, though younger members could obtain them, having made contracts more recently before joining their particular groups.

However, as mobile phone technology continues its rapid advance, they too will run into the same problem before long. On the other hand, yakuza groups have shown their resourcefulness time and time again, by even finding ways to make money by stealing sea cucumbers in the middle of the night and adopting proficiency in Photoshop. They may find a way around this too.

Source: News Post Seven, Tokyo Sports Web, Boryokudan News, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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