Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
World | By Paul Elliott

Fugitive from Japanese yakuza gang is given away by tattoos

Fugitive from Japanese yakuza gang is given away by tattoos

Thai police have arrested a Japanese yakuza boss on the run for 15 years after pictures of his tattoos went viral on Facebook.

On Wednesday, Thai police arrested Shirai in Lopburi Province, where he is believed to have been in hiding for 13 years, on suspicion of overstaying his visa.

A police statement said Shigeharu Shirai was arrested on Wednesday in a province north of Bangkok, where he had been hiding for more than 10 years to evade murder charges in Japan in connection with the death of a rival gang member. "When I grow up, will I look like you?"

Pictures also show that he is missing part of his little finger, often a self-administered punishment for members of Japan's yakuza gangs to atone for mistakes.

Images of Shigeharu Shirai playing draughts went viral on the internet, leading to his capture.

The post, which was shared more than 10,000 times, helped some users identify him as the fugitive and ended a multi-national manhunt between the Thai Investigation Bureau and the Japanese Interpol.

He has not admitted to the murder, but according to Thai police spokesman, "The suspect has not confessed to murder but has admitted that the victim used to bully him".

Despite their notorious reputation the Yakuza are not illegal like the Italian Mafia or Chinese triads, and each group has its own headquarters in full view of police.

However, much of the yakuza's earnings come from illicit activities including gambling, prostitution, loan sharking, protection rackets, drug trafficking, cyber hacking and white-collar crime.

The mafia-like yakuza gangs first operated in the 17th century, stemming from street merchants and gamblers.

Japanese authorities have called for his arrest over an alleged role in the shooting of a rival in Japan in 2003, after which he fled to Thailand, married a Thai woman and drifted into a seemingly peaceful retirement. He had received money to live on from a Japanese man who visited him two or three times a year.

In modern times, not all members have the tattoos, in order to better blend in with society.

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