Italy has the Mafias. China has the Triads. Zambia has the Jerabos. Japan has the Yakuza. Yakuza, also known as gokudō, are members of transnational organized crime syndicates originating in Japan. The Japanese police, and media by request of the police, call them bōryokudan, while the yakuza call themselves ninkyō dantai.
The largest group in the Japanese Yakuza, the Yamaguchi-Gumi, from its headquarters in Kobe, is involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking, extortion, prostitution, fraud and money laundering both in Japan and abroad.
These activities are estimated to generate the group billions of dollars in illicit funds annually. To combat such criminal activities, financial investigation units and financial institutions have begun putting pressure on the Yakuza and its affiliates by freezing its assets.
In February 2012, USA President Barrack Obama and Joe Biden identified the Yakuza as a significant transnational criminal organization (TCOs) and charged the US treasury department with pursuing additional sanctions against their members and supporters. The Treasury Department proceeded to designate the largest group within the Japanese Yakuza, the Yamaguchi-Gumi and two of its leaders as targets of its sanctions authority.
This action resulted in the freezing of any assets the designated persons had within the jurisdiction of the United States and prohibiting any transactions with them by the U.S. persons. The pressure against the Yakuza has since increased as Japan’s Financial Services Agency ordered Mizuho Financial, one of the wealthiest financial institutions in the World, to improve its compliance regarding suspected loans loaned to known criminal organizations.
Japan’s Police Agency estimates that due to this increased pressure from regulators, the membership of the Yakuza is steadily declining as it becomes increasingly difficult to launder the money. They are always re-invention new modus operandi.