A Japanese court on Tuesday sentenced a yakuza boss to death for his involvement in a murder and three other violent crimes.
Satoru Nomura, the 74-year-old head of one of Japan’s most dangerous crime groups, Kudo-kai, was convicted for the attacks, including the killing of a fishermen’s union chief, carried out between 1998 and 2014.
Nomura denied he had ordered the assaults and reportedly protested his sentence, telling the judge at the Fukuoka district court, “You’ll regret this for the rest of your life.”
His second-in-command, 65-year-old Fumio Tanoue, was sentenced to life imprisonment. Both men said they would appeal the decision.
The sentences were believed to be the toughest ever handed down on yakuza leaders.
Yakuza are transnational organized crime syndicates in Japan involved in mafia-like activities like drug dealing, extortion, smuggling and racketeering.
Kazuhiro Nakamura, a lawyer who’s prosecuted members of the yakuza, said he had never before tried a case that resulted in a death sentence for a gang leader.
“Unlike [in] the United States, Italy and South Korea, yakuza are not banned. I believe Japan has to get to a point where the existence of these syndicates are prohibited,” Nakamura told VICE World News.
Although Japan has introduced policies limiting the yakuza’s movements, it does not prohibit crime syndicates from operating in public. Nakamura said the yakuza’s long history in Japanese society has made it difficult to enforce a sweeping ban, and some reports have alleged close ties between Japanese politicians and yakuza members that offer the group some protection.
Kudo-kai, the group Nomura led, was designated a dangerous crime syndicate in 2012 under Japan’s anti-organized crime laws, after its members attacked civilians and companies.
Japanese police first arrested Nomura in September 2014 on the suspicion that he ordered the 1998 murder of the leader of a fishermen’s union. Following his indictment that year, police launched an operation to dissolve Nomura’s gang.
The judge also ruled that Nomura and Tanoue were involved in the shooting of a Fukuoka prefectural police officer in 2012. The two men were also found guilty of plotting the stabbings of a nurse who was treating him for penis enlargement, and of a dentist who was a relative of the slayed fishermen’s union chief.
Other Kudo-kai members involved in the crimes have been convicted, too, with some sentenced to life in prison.