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Japan's biggest crime syndicate is facing a rift, government officials have said. The police was placed on high alert due to an expected spike in gang violence, according to the local media.
At least 10 factions of the Yamaguchi-gumi gang were attempting to split from the main body and create a new crime organization, according to the Japanese public broadcaster NHK.
"The government is aware that some member factions of the Yamaguchi-gumi, regarded as Japan's biggest crime syndicate, are showing moves toward secession," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Friday.
The police were placed on high alert in the wake of the latest developments, according to Kyodo News agency. The split could lead to a wave of gang violence, police officials warned.
"Police are working to collect information. We hope police will use this opportunity to take measures to weaken the organization," Suga said.
The security officials are set to discuss the potential split in a special meeting next week, the Nikkei newspaper reported.
Tough times for crime
The Japanese mafia, also known as the Yakuza, is involved in a wide range of illegal activities. Similar to organizations like the Cosa Nostra or the Chinese Triads, the Yakuza deal in drugs and weapons and the sex industry, and are involved in racketeering and white-collar crime.
However, it is not illegal to be a member of the Yakuza in Japan. Many of the individual divisions have clearly designated headquarters in different cities throughout the country.
Many members identify themselves with vast and elaborate tattoos. Individuals bearing such tattoos are banned from numerous Japanese establishments such as hotels.
The Yamaguchi-gumi syndicate is one of the biggest organized crime groups in the world, boasting 23,000 members and associates and earning billions of US dollars per year.
The syndicate is based in Kobe, on the southern side of the main island of Honshu. However, members of the group are active in other Asian countries and in the United States.
Lately, the crime organization has been facing difficulties due to police crackdowns, and a poor public image of the Yakuza has made it more difficult to recruit new members, experts say.
dj/sgb (AFP, Interfax)