Japanese police yesterday arrested the leader of a particularly brutal yakuza organised crime syndicate for allegedly gunning down a man in public. Satoru Nomura, 67, the top leader of Kudokai - one of Japan's most dangerous yakuza crime syndicates - was taken into custody over the 1998 killing of a 70-year-old man, a police spokesman said. "He is suspected of firing a gun at point-black range [to kill the victim] ... and of shooting a weapon in public," the spokesman said. The possession and use of firearms is heavily regulated in Japan. Television footage showed dozens of riot police wearing helmets and bulletproof vests milling around Nomura's vast residence in Kitakyushu. The victim was Kunihiro Kajiwara, the head of the local fishermen's cooperative. Local media said Kajiwara's killing might have been in retaliation for refusing to give favourable treatment to the yakuza group over public works in a local port. Four members of Kudokai were arrested in 2002 over the incident, of whom two were convicted, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported. The yakuza occupy a grey area in Japan's usually law-abiding society. Like the Italian mafia and Chinese triads, they engage in activities ranging from gambling, drugs and prostitution to loan sharking, protection rackets and white-collar crime. The gangs, which themselves are not illegal, have historically been tolerated by the authorities, although in recent years, efforts have been made to choke off their sources of funding. Kudokai is one of the largest yakuza crime syndicates in the Kyushu region of western Japan. It is acknowledged by local governments as a particularly dangerous yakuza group because of its apparent willingness to target civilians, according to local reports.