​Fugitive Yakuza Crime Lord Was Arrested In Thailand After 14 Years On The Run When His Gangster Tattoos Went Viral

Image Source: Reuters

Most of the people around the world are probably aware of what Yakuza stands for. Translated literally as “the extreme path”, it is the term that encompasses all of the members of the Japanese crime syndicates. They are well-known for their strict hierarchy and codes, and they are represented all over the globe. They probably think themselves as an organization of great value and solid virtues, because the yakuza refer to themselves as “ninkyō dantai”, which roughly means “chivalrous organizations”. Estimations show that the total number of Yakuza members is more than a hundred thousand, more than a half of which reside in Japan.

The name “Yakuza” itself came from the popular Oicho-Kabu card game that is a tradition in Japan. The “ya-ku-sa” card draw is the worst you can have in the game, and when pronounced in Japanese, it sound exactly like Yakuza.

A lot of the Yakuza members are completely covered in tattoos from the neck down, including their genitals. The tattoos are called “irezumi” and to this day are mostly hand-pierced, meaning that the ink is inserted under the top skin layer without the use of a modern electrical tattoo gun, but with hand tools and needles instead. As you can imagine, it is extremely painful; also, there is the fact that it takes years to complete and is very expensive—not many tattoo artists can or will take on such a task.

These tattoos were usually kept hidden from the public with long-sleeved suits and shirts with high collars. However, it turns out that they are such a distinctive feature that if they are seen by the wrong person, they could get the one who is wearing them in a lot of trouble, and that is exactly what happened in this story.

Image Source: REUTERS

A former crime boss in Japan by the name of Shigeharu Shirai was enjoying his retirement as a fugitive when he was arrested unexpectedly in Thailand. He managed to outrun the law for 14 years, until his tattoos got him arrested in the most unfortunate chain of events for him. Shirai—who was 74 years old when he got busted—was shopping in Lopburi, which is a central marketplace in Thailand, when he was arrested last Wednesday.

He managed to lay low unnoticed in Thailand for many years. He came to the country after the authorities in Japan put him up for arrest due to his involvement in the assassination of one of his rivals back in 2003. He allegedly traveled to Thailand two years later and soon married a woman there, thus seemingly settled as a regular senior citizen. He was visited by some Japanese men a couple of times every year—they brought him money.

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Image Source: REUTERS

His peaceful way of life was true bliss until it was rudely interrupted by the authorities. The way in which they were able to find his whereabouts is proof that the Internet is a powerful tool.

A random local person simply saw his full body Yakuza tattoos, without any idea who Shirai was or what the tattoos really stood for. The person took some photographs of Shirai playing a game alongside the street, showing a big portion of his tattoos. Later the photos were shared on social media and quickly got more than ten thousand shares!

Image Source: REUTERS

Some of the photos showed another distinctive feature of the yakuza—one of Shirai’s missing fingers was missing. This is the result of a ritual called “yubisume”, in which the gang member cuts his own finger off due to disrespect or a mistake he was responsible for

The photos somehow got to the attention of the police in Japan, and after a quick investigation it was confirmed that this was actually Shirai, and the arrest was requested immediately. The town of Lopburi, where the former gangster was arrested, is located north of the city of Bangkok.

The official reason for the arrest was that Shirai had illegally entered Thailand before, and at the moment he has neither a passport, nor a visa. The charges for murder against him can be pursued after his extradition in Japan.
Shirai reportedly admitted that he was yakuza, but denied any link to the murder in 2003. A Thailand police spokesman stated that Shirai confessed that he is the former leader of one of Yakuza’s sub-gangs—Kodokai.

Yakuza has a lot of different features than the regular mafia-type organizations. The main difference between them and the Chinese triads, for example, is that Yakuza gangs are not illegal. In some cases their headquarters are fully observed by the police all the time, and that makes things very interesting. If you compare it to a cat and mouse game, this is as complicated as the game gets.

Despite the abovementioned fact, it is widely known that Yakuza makes most of their profit through drug trafficking, prostitution, gambling, and even cyber-crimes.

H/T – Source

Written by Patrick Bennet

I have been working as a teacher my whole life. I love reading books.

I love writing about all kind of different and interesting facts. It's not only exciting, but I learn something new every day. What I learn I share it with you guys. If you have any questions feel free to contact me.

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