Monday, February 8, 2016

Our Team

We often receive emails asking who we are.  Are there faces behind the postings?  Yes, there are and here we are.  So to start off 2016 we introduce ourselves to yourselves.

Chief Editor Charles Jefferson (CJ)

Asst. Editor Reginald Iolanthe Perrin

Sports, Tony Webster

Politics, David Harris Jones

Health, Doc Geoff Morrissey

Wine, Tom Patterson

Food, Chef Kenny McBlane

Global Issues, Maj. James Anderson, Ret.

Business, Seamus Finnegan

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Abe's Yakuza Ties

PM Shinzo Abe center, Yakuza head Icchu Nagamoto right

 The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been accused of having ties to the Yamaguchi-gumi. Hakubun Shimomura, the minister of education, was the subject of intense scrutiny (link in Japanese) in February and March 2015 for receiving political donations from a Yamaguchi-gumi front company and political support from a Yamaguchi-gumi Kodo-kai associate. He returned the donations.

Abe was photographed with a reputed financial consigliere of the group in 2008. He denied any close relations to the man in the photo, which shows the two posing with U.S. politician Mike Huckabee.

The conflict appears to stem from divided loyalty to the current leader of the organization, Kenichi Shinoda, also known as Tsukasa Shinobu. The 73-year-old is affiliated with the Kodo-kai faction and took over the Yamaguchi-gumi in 2005.

He replaced Yoshinori Watanabe, who represented the Yamaken-gumi, the second-most powerful faction in the group. The Yamaguchi-gumi is a pyramidlike organization with 72 directly affiliated gang leaders who head their own crime groups. There has long been inter-factional conflict.

The Yamaken-gumi has been resentful of Tsukasa’s reign, feeling that power was not equally divided and that actions taken by the upper management have resulted in increased police crackdowns.

It was not immediately apparent why the split happened now, but there is speculation that it had to do with Tsukasa’s plans to retire this year. His successor was also expected to be from the Kodo-kai faction. 

Police sources say that earlier this month, the Yamaken-gumi united with several other major factions in the Kansai region and split from the organization. Rumors of the breakup began circulating early this month. 

The breakaway faction is reportedly planning to establish its own organization with a new name, said police sources, and on Friday the breakaway groups boycotted the meeting at the Kobe headquarters and many of their top bosses were permanently expelled from the organization.

Jake Adelstein

Yakuza and The Tokyo Olympics

Hidetoshi Tanaka the Vice-chairman of 2020 Olympics seated with Yakuza head

 Hidetoshi Tanaka (left), the chief director of Japan University and the vice chairman of Japan's Olympic Committee. Sitting next to Tanaka is Shinobu Tsukasa, the head of Japan's largest yakuza [organized crime] syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are predicted to cost at least $5 billion. That means there's a lot of money to be made in construction. 

According to police and other sources, a reporter for Keiten Shimbun attempted to seek clarification from Japan University and Tanaka about when the photo was taken and what Tanaka's current relationship, if any, is to the Yamaguchi-gumi. On the night of September 30, as the reporter was walking back to the newspaper office, he was assaulted by two men with metal baseball bats who struck him repeatedly in one place on his body. A police source said they will not specify the location of the injury "because it's something only the assailant would know, and we wish to weed out possible false confessions."

The day after the assault, almost every major media organization in Japan received threatening phone calls from people telling them not to publish the photo. One magazine editor, who spoke to VICE News on the condition of anonymity, said the threat was, "'We attacked Keiten Shimbun. If you get uppity and publish that photo of those two, you'll meet the same fate.'"

More than a month later, the photo remained unpublished. (VICE News is the first outlet to publish the photo.) However, Keiten Shimbun did publish another photo of Tanaka toward the end of October. In that photo (below), from sometime in 2004, Tanaka is pictured with another senior member of the Yamaguchi-gumi named Iwao Yamamoto, who was once close to Tsukasa. Yamamoto shot himself in front of the grave of his predecessor in December 2010.

Tanaka with Iwao Yamamoto, Yakuza head

 "Whether or not he (Tanaka) still has associations with Yamaguchi-gumi members is something under review," said an official at the National Police Agency. "Under the Tokyo Organized Crime Control Exclusionary Ordinances, such ties would be illegal."

Tanaka has a history of shady associations. A photo of him (below) was taken at a party commemorating the promotion of gang boss Hareaki Fukuda to chairman of the Sumiyoshi-kai crime group - a rival of the Yamaguchi-gumi - in September 1998 at the New Otani hotel in Tokyo. Tanaka allegedly went to the party to congratulate Fukuda. (Sumiyoshi-kai sources say that sometime around 2003, Tanaka began to associate more closely with the Yamaguchi-gumi.)

Jake Adelstein