Yakuza aim for ‘private army’ business model in bid to go legit

In interview, head of the Ninkyo Dantai Yamaguchi-gumi said he plans to set up a private military company

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 June, 2017, 9:55am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 June, 2017, 12:29pm

Reports that one of Japan’s underworld groups is planning to branch out and provide bodyguards and security personnel for businesses in Southeast Asia have been described as “a logical development” for yakuza gangs looking to earn a living legitimately.

In an interview with Flash magazine, Yoshinori Oda, head of the Ninkyo Dantai Yamaguchi-gumi, said he plans to set up a private military company, which are legal elsewhere.

“Outside of Japan, PMCs already exist in the United States and Europe,” Oda said, according to a translation provided by the Tokyo Reporter web site.

“Since we cannot enter the US, we will establish a branch office in Southeast Asia and establish a contract with that office separately. Upon receiving a request for bodyguard or security services for Japanese nationals, we will be dispatched.”

There has been growing concern among Japanese companies and organisations doing business in some parts of the region about the safety of their staff, particularly after seven members of the Japan International Cooperation Agency were killed in an attack by Islamic militants on a restaurant in Bangladesh in July 2016.

In January 2013, 10 Japanese engineers were among more than 40 people killed when Muslim fundamentalists seized a natural gas plant in Algeria, while businessmen from South Korea and Japan have been the target of kidnappers in Southeast Asian nations in the past.

How Japan’s criminal gangs are making a fortune from gold bought in Hong Kong

However, it’s unclear whether legitimate Japanese companies would want to sign contracts for security services with a known underworld group.

Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan and expert on Japan’s underworld, said members of the group – a splinter of the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi – appear to be preparing for their new business venture.

“The police arrested a number of the group last week with a consignment of pistols, which suggests they may have been a little overzealous in their groundwork,” he said.

“That aside, Oda has always talked the big talk and this sort of project is just the sort of thing that he would come up with,” he said.

“Clearly the group is also looking for a business that none of the other groups are doing because they are being squeezed in Japan so tightly by the police thanks to all the new laws designed to do just that.

Japan’s new law against ‘criminal conspiracy’ raises civil rights objections

“Another positive is that yakuza make great soldiers; they are generally willing to lay down their lives for their boss, they are obedient, they are versed in violence and many of them enjoy it.”

Another benefit is the business links that Japan’s underworld groups have already forged in places like Thailand and the Philippines through their other ventures, while it would also be relatively easy to hire former military personnel to train Oda’s “street toughs” in some more soldierly skills, Adelstein said.