Death sentence for Kudo-kai kingpin a warning shot for organized crime

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Fukuoka District Court and The Fukuoka High Court. In Chuo Ward, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture on November 10, 2020.

This is a court ruling that reflects the judiciary’s determination not to allow unreasonable violence against civilians. It is vital that this sentence leads to an effective crackdown on organized crime.

The Fukuoka District Court has handed down a death sentence and an indefinite prison term to two top executive members of the especially dangerous crime syndicate Kudo-kai. They were charged with murder and violation of anti-organized crime law for orchestrating four incidents in which ordinary citizens were attacked in Fukuoka Prefecture.

The incidents occurred between 1998 and 2014, leaving one person dead and three injured. The former president of a fisheries cooperative was shot to death after refusing the demands of Kudo-kai. The ruling pointed out that the crime was committed with the intent to pocket a large profit, and that the perpetrators were prepared to do anything to achieve their goal.

There are few judicial precedents in which capital punishment has been meted out as the penalty for a single murder. The ruling apparently attached importance to the impact of the crimes, in which the Kudo-kai’s selfish motives led to members of the local community being harmed one after another.

After the ruling was handed down, the presiding judge was threatened by the defendants, with one of them saying, “You’ll regret this for the rest of your life.” This is an affront to law and order, and is absolutely unacceptable.

The police reportedly strengthened the security of judicial officials and others involved in the trial. All possible measures need to be taken to ensure that appropriate judicial procedures are not hampered by unjust violence.

In some cases, investigations into organized crimes do not progress smoothly because there is little evidence that shows that executive members directly ordered the crimes. The two top executive members of Kudo-kai also claimed that they were innocent because they did not order the gang members, who physically committed the crimes, to attack the victims.

However, based on the results of examination of a total of 91 witnesses, the ruling acknowledged that Kudo-kai’s strict hierarchy means “it would be impossible for gang members to commit serious crimes without the consent of senior members such as the defendants.”

In the absence of solid evidence, testimonies were gathered from many related individuals to unravel the organizational nature of the gang and the motive for the crimes. The method could be used in future organized crime investigations.

If it becomes easier to pursue the criminal responsibility of crime syndicate heads, a weakening of gangs and deterrence of organized crime could be expected as a result. Going forward, police nationwide must make efforts to actively crack down on such groups.

In recent years, crime syndicates have stayed out of the spotlight, as other groups — including “hangure” (quasi-gangsters) — play a growing hand in such crimes as special fraud. Because such groups are not bound by strong hierarchical relationships, it has become difficult to unravel their ties to crime syndicates.

Under such circumstances, civil lawsuits have been filed by plaintiffs including victims of special fraud and other crimes demanding compensation and the heads of crime groups have been ordered to pay restitution in some cases. It is important to take all possible measures to cut off the source of funds of crime syndicates.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Aug. 27, 2021.