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U.S. imposes sanctions on Japan’s Yakuza crime syndicate

By Jim Kouri—

Tuesday, March 20, 2012—On Friday, President Obama identified the Japanese crime gang Yakuza as a significant Transnational Criminal Organization as defined in his Executive Order 13581 (Blocking Property of Transnational Criminal Organizations) of July 24, 2011. and charged the Treasury Department with pursuing additional sanctions against their members and supporters, according to a Treasury Department report.

Transnational criminals are now more entrepreneurial and sophisticated, and their growing infiltration of licit commerce and economic activity fundamentally threatens the free markets and financial systems that are critical to the stability and efficiency of the global economy, a law enforcement executive who requested anonymity said on Saturday.

“Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) such as Yakuza threatens free markets because it disregards the laws and norms that legitimate businesses respect, thereby reaping an unfair competitive advantage. By eroding market integrity, quality, and competitiveness and using financial systems to move, conceal, and increase illicit funds, transnational criminals exploit and undermine not only the interests of the United States but also those of all countries promoting the rule of law,” the anonymous executive told the Law Enforcement Examiner.
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Organized crime experts believe the United States can detect, disrupt, and reduce the economic power of international organized crime gangs such as the Japanese Yakuza. To do so, the United States, according to the Obama Administration, must work with international partners to deter or sever crime-state alliances, raise awareness to alert businesses that may be unwitting facilitators for criminal enterprises, and continue to develop appropriate safeguards to protect the legitimate flow of trade and investment.

By targeting criminal assets and opportunities, the United States and its allies can significantly reduce the profitability, growth, and evolution of TOC networks, according to the Obama national security team who formulated an anti-organized crime strategy.

However, some TOC activity is inherently harder to detect and deter. The United States will place special emphasis on cybercrimes due to their enormous impact on the economy and consumer health and safety, according to White House officials.

The United States remains intent on improving the transparency of the international financial system, including an effort to expose vulnerabilities that could be exploited by terrorist and other illicit financial networks, says former intelligence officer and police detective Michael Snopes.

At the same time, the United States will enhance and apply financial tools and sanctions more effectively to close those vulnerabilities, disrupt and dismantle illicit financial networks, and apply pressure on the state entities that directly or indirectly support TOC.

“We will continue to monitor TOC infiltration of the global economy to better protect the financial system and freeze the assets of criminal networks under expanded Presidential sanctions authorities and/or seize them under existing forfeiture laws,” said Snopes.
The Yamaguchi-gumi is the largest and most prominent of the Yakuza’s crime families, and is being designated for acting for or on behalf of the Yakuza. The Yamaguchi-gumi has a pyramid structure with a kumicho (“godfather”) at the top, according to the Law Enforcement Examiner’s sources.

The Yamaguchi-gumi is involved in criminal endeavors in Japan and abroad, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, extortion, prostitution, fraud and money laundering. The Yamaguchi-gumi is estimated to generate billions of dollars annually in illicit proceeds.

The Obama White House’s latest action is designed to protect the integrity of the U.S. financial system, to prevent U.S. financial institutions from being used unwittingly to facilitate the unlawful activities of these groups, and to deny the named individuals and entity access to the U.S. economy, according to the White House press office.

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