Death Sentence Overturned for Kudo-kai Gang Boss in Japan

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Satoru Nomura

Fukuoka (Jiji Press)—A Japanese high court Tuesday overturned a lower court ruling sentencing the head of the Kudo-kai crime syndicate to death over four cases of attacks on civilians.

Fukuoka High Court handed down a life sentence for 77-year-old Satoru Nomura, who heads the gang, based in the city of Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, southwestern Japan.

Meanwhile, the court upheld Fukuoka District Court’s ruling of life imprisonment for Fumio Tanoue, 67, the gang’s No. 2 man.

The district court had found Nomura to be the mastermind behind all four attacks.

The high court, however, found him not guilty of his alleged collusion in the fatal shooting of a former head of a fisheries cooperative in 1998. Presiding Judge Futoshi Ichikawa said he cannot recognize Nomura’s complicity through logical or empirical reasoning.

For the other three attacks, the high court recognized that both Nomura and Tanoue exerted significant decision-making power, concluding that the two conspired with other Kudo-kai members in the attacks.

The defense side claimed that Nomura was completely innocent. Tanoue admitted to instructing Kudo-kai members to attack a nurse and a dentist but denied any intent to kill.

Prosecutors said there was nothing unreasonable with the lower court ruling, which concluded that the two had ordered the attacks, given that Nomura is at the very top of Kudo-kai.

In a high court hearing, Tanoue switched to claiming that he alone instructed the two attacks. On this, the prosecutors said that his new statements cannot be trusted because he is likely to have changed his remarks to protect Nomura.

Nomura and Tanoue allegedly conspired with other Kudo-kai members to shoot and kill the former fisheries cooperative chief, then 70, in February 1998, as well as attack a former police chief inspector, the nurse and the dentist between 2012 and 2014.

When the district court handed down the death sentence in 2021, Nomura told the judge, “You’ll regret the decision for the rest of your life.”

Before delivering the main text of the high court’s verdict Tuesday, Ichikawa warned that Nomura might be ordered to leave the courtroom if he made any inappropriate remark.

Nomura remained expressionless and stared directly at Ichikawa when the judge declared that the death sentence had been overturned.

In 2012, Kudo-kai became the first gang to be designated as a specified dangerous crime syndicate in Japan, following a string of attacks on civilians and companies.

The Fukuoka prefectural police department will be relentless in taking measures to destroy the group, department head Tsuyoshi Iwashita said.