Japan's 'yakuza' record lowest number of members

Indo Asian News Service

Tokyo, March 16 (IANS) Japanese mafia, or the Yakuza, recorded the lowest number of members in almost 60 years owing to financial crunch, tough police measures and a growing civil movement against them, an official report showed on Thursday.

The number of people belonging to organised crime groups in Japan stood at around 18,100 in 2016, the lowest since the National Police Agency began gathering data in 1958, the agency said in the report.

It is also the first time the number has dropped below 20,000, Efe news reported.

Japanese law allows yakuza groups to exist as long as they are not "violent" or "conflictive", and have their own financial headquarters and register their subsidiary groups, so they can be regulated.

Japanese gangsters, who earlier used visiting cards bearing the seal of their organisation as a "symbol of power", while collecting 'protection money' from local businesses or to have their way in negotiating business agreements, have reduced the use of violence or extortions due to police crackdowns.

The laws -- in force since 2011 -- prevent the yakuza from having bank accounts and penalise companies that deal with these organisations, among other restrictions.

The report also showed police action against offenders from these groups in drug-related cases rose 1.4 times in 2016 with respect to the last nine years.

Until 30 years ago, the yakuza were deeply rooted in society and exhibited their power, contesting local elections and organising concerts and other events to collect funds.

However, police crackdowns and a growing civil movement to eliminate them as well as internal disputes have reduced their presence and power in the country.

--IANS

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