The police try to help the former gangsters integrate into society and stay out of trouble by seeking the cooperation of the banking industry which has closed its doors to underworld figures.
In February, the National Police Agency provided written guidelines to prefectural police departments on procedures for former gangsters, who have severed all ties with organized crime, to open bank accounts.
The NPA, through the Financial Services Agency, has also notified financial institutions, from megabanks to community banks, of the ex-gangster relief measure.
The absence of a bank account hampers the social reintegration of former gangsters because, for example, they have difficulty in receiving automatic deposits of their salaries.
The NPA’s decision is intended to encourage as many gangsters as possible to leave their yakuza groups and reintegrate into society.
“It’s a key part of anti-gang measures to allow those who have left yakuza groups permanently to open their own bank accounts,” a senior police officer said. “We hope to work steadily and do all we can as a police force.”
The decision to open accounts ultimately rests with financial institutions, which have their own anti-gang provisions.
In general, they rejected any requests from gangsters to open accounts that could end up being used for illegal activities by organized criminal groups.
Gangsters who left their unions also found it difficult to open accounts.
Financial institutions use their own databases and other information to determine if an applicant should be considered a gangster.
Some institutions have provisions stating that former gangsters must still be considered gangsters for five years after leaving their yakuza groups.
Those eligible for police assistance to open bank accounts must meet a number of requirements, in addition to pledging to sever all ties with organized crime groups.
For example, they must be employed by a “cooperating company”. These companies have agreed to hire former yakuza with the help of the police or a “criminal organization elimination center”.
Each prefecture has such a center created under the law against organized crime.
NPA guidelines state that police will notify a financial institution when a former mobster plans to open an account there. Police will also respond to inquiries from financial institutions regarding an applicant’s possible links to organized crime.
The officials of the cooperating company and the local gangster withdrawal center will accompany the former gangster to the financial institution for the application for a new account.
If an account is opened, the police and the gangster removal center will monitor whether the former gangster has returned to a life of crime.
The police can also respond to inquiries from financial institutions regarding the latest status of their new customers.
Under instructions from an NPA leader to “annihilate” yakuza groups, police across the country have stepped up their crackdown on unions. A big part of the plan is to encourage the gangsters to leave organized crime behind and reintegrate into society.
There were approximately 25,900 members and quasi-members of organized crime groups across Japan at the end of 2020, down more than 70% from three decades earlier.
Police and gangster removal centers helped around 17,500 gangsters leave their groups between 1992, when the Organized Crime Act came into effect, and 2020. Police and other parties helped 1,276 of them to get a job. There are about 1,500 cooperating companies, officials said.
A POSITIVE STEP
A criminologist hailed the measure to help them open bank accounts.
“This is a major and positive step to support the social reintegration of former gangsters,” said Noboru Hirosue, a part-time researcher at Ryukoku University’s Center for Criminology Research.
“Those who leave yakuza groups will have clearer prospects for social reintegration with clearer standards allowing them to hold bank accounts.”
Hirosue, 51, who is familiar with the issue of rehabilitating former gangsters, said anyone denied an account would face restrictions on collecting salaries, renting properties and subscribing to a mobile phone service.
If former mobsters explain that their criminal past is the reason they cannot open an account, potential employers may decide to revoke their job offers.
Yakuza groups sometimes cite these circumstances to try to dissuade members from leaving, Hirosue said.
When former gangsters struggle to make ends meet, they may resort to phone scams and other crimes, or return to their yakuza organizations.
“The latest measure will likely deter such moves to some degree,” Hirosue said.
But he also said more could be done, noting that police assistance is only available to former gangsters who will be employed by cooperating companies.
“It’s not easy for ex-thugs to find jobs in the first place in geographies where there are few cooperating businesses, and it will limit opportunities for them to open bank accounts,” Hirosue said. . “It is essential to ensure that there are more cooperating companies.”
(This article was compiled from reports by Kosuke Tauchi and Hayato Kaji.)