|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.