For the companies approached by the yakuza, more than half (185) were pressed for payments or services in the last year. Payments in cash were typically between ¥10,000 and ¥100,000 ($120 to $1,200). One company admitted to paying more ¥10 million to silence the group harassing them.
The NPA noted in the study, “Of the 2,562 companies that were aware of the organized crime exclusionary ordinances, 63.3 percent said that the laws were having an effect. When companies were asked what they wanted from the government to help cut ties to the yakuza, overwhelmingly the reply was, ‘for the police to provide information about anti-social forces’ at a little under 70 percent.”
The most common targets of yakuza shakedowns were construction companies and real estate firms. In 43 percent of the cases, the men demanding money or compensation without cause were not yakuza members themselves but individuals with yakuza backing. The four most common means of extortion were:
finding fault with the company and demanding compensation
asking for purchase of goods or services
aggressively requesting donations or “association fees”
demands for construction work and related contracts
Of the cases where the organized crime groups were clearly identified, the Yamaguchi-gumi was the top. This is not surprising with their membership at 39,000 making them the largest crime group, the Walmart of the yakuza.
88 percent of the companies surveyed were aware of the organized crime exclusionary ordinances but 1 in 4 had taken no real steps to implement compliance measures. For the companies that refused to give in to yakuza demands 32.6 percent saw their business operations disrupted, their reputation damaged by sound trucks (vehicles favored by right-wing groups loaded with loud speakers which blast out music and verbal abuse), or defamatory writing on the internet (comments and postings like “Company X’s product causes cancer” or “This corporation pollutes the rivers”). Ironically, sometimes the yakuza actually do correctly point out serious problems with Japanese corporations. According to the book, Japan’s Great Taboos 2 (Takarajima), circa 1990 a Yamaguchi-gumi boss wrote a series of articles about safety problems at the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant and was paid off by TEPCO to stop writing about them. The Fukushima Power Plant suffered a triple meltdown on March 11, 2011. There were also attacks on family members or employees or trading partners. And in about 3.6 percent of the cases, the yakuza retaliated by exposing company scandals and/or company secrets in magazines and other media.
It’s not an uncommon practice for the yakuza to use the media to punish individuals or companies they deem uncooperative. Japan’s last Justice Minister, Tanaka Keishu, was forced to resign on October 23 after his yakuza ties were exposed by the weekly magazine Shukan Shincho; the information was allegedly proffered to the magazine by his former yakuza benefactors, according to police sources and magazine reporters.