On August 25, 2021, the Court in Fukuoka District, Japan, sentenced Satoru Nomura to death. The 74-year-old man is suspected to be the boss of the Yakuza criminal organization, from the Kudo-kai group. According to the judge, he was found guilty of ordering the killings and three incidents of armed violence.
The Kudo-kai is one of the most violent and brutal Yakuza groups. During his leadership of the organization, according to the prosecutor Nomura had ordered the assassination of the head of the fishermen’s union, and was involved in the attacks on several other figures from 1998 to 2014.
Nomura denied that the series of killings and attacks were his orders. In the courtroom, he openly threatened the judge because he was sentenced to death. “You will regret this decision for the rest of your life,” said Nomura, as quoted by the Mainichi Shimbun, referring to witness testimony in court.
Apart from Nomura, other Kudo-kai officials were also tried. Fumio Tanoue, Nomura’s 65-year-old right-hand man, was sentenced to life in prison. According to lawyers, they will both appeal.
The sentence from the Fukuoka District judge was the heaviest ever given to a member of the Yakuza criminal gang. The bosses who are caught are usually only sentenced to a dozen or ten years in prison, but no one is sentenced to death.
Yakuza until the 21st century still continue to survive in Japan, although not as strong and influential as three decades ago. The Yakuza’s main “business” is security protection services for cafes and bars, extortion, and drug smuggling. Because of their cross-country network, the Yakuza’s reputation is finally on par with other well-known criminal organizations, such as the mafia or triads.
Kazuhiro Nakamura, a prosecutor who once tried Yakuza members, said he was surprised that the Fukuoka Court dared to issue a death sentence for Nomura.
“Unlike in the United States, Italy or South Korea, the Japanese legal system has never prohibited the formation of Yakuza organizations. With the verdict the other day, I think sooner or later a stricter Yakuza ban will be realized,” Nakamura said when contacted by VICE World News.
The Japanese government has only tried to limit the Yakuza’s space. For example, Yakuza members will not be able to have bank accounts, find it difficult to get social assistance, and be prevented from buying property. However, admitting in public that you are a Yakuza, or announcing that you are a member of the Yakuza, is not against the law at all.
Nakamura said that Yakuza, with its various organizational variants, had already taken root in Japanese culture. Because of this, it is very difficult to make rules prohibiting someone from forming or joining the Yakuza. In fact, because of its influence, there have been many investigative reports showing politicians and Yakuza members working together .
The Kudo-kai, one of dozens of Yakuza organizations that have survived in modern Japan, were classified as the most dangerous criminal gangs in 2012 . Police said Kudo-kai members repeatedly attacked civilians and extorted companies.
Nomura himself has been arrested by the police since September 2014. There is a witness report that he ordered the assassination of the head of the fishing union who was obstructing Kudo-kai’s business interests, in 1998. A year later, the authorities carried out a large-scale operation to confiscate all of Kudo-kai’s assets, and completely -facto dissolves the organization. Almost all Kudo-kai officials have been arrested, and sentenced earlier with the majority sentenced to life imprisonment.
According to the evidence the judge obtained, Nomura and Tanoue were conclusively guilty of shooting a police officer in Fukuoka in 2012. In addition, the two Yakuza officials had stabbed a nurse who was involved in Nomura’s penis enlargement operation. Apart from that, another victim of the brutal actions of the two Yakuza bosses was a dentist, who was shot because he witnessed an attempt to kill his brother-in-law, the head of the fishermen’s union.
Japan itself is one of the few developed countries that still apply the death penalty , which allowed the harshest sentence to be handed down on Nomura. Referring to December 2020 data, in total there are 110 inmates who are still waiting for their turn to be executed.