U.S. Sanctions Japan’s Largest Organized-Crime Group
The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Japan’s biggest organized-crime syndicate, known as the yakuza, which operate with relative impunity there and whose far-ranging criminal activity has become a significant concern in Washington.
In an announcement Thursday, the department said it would freeze the American-based assets of the group, the Yamaguchi-gumi, and two of its leaders. It will also bar any transactions between Americans and members of the sanctioned crime syndicate. Yakuza groups have been tied to drug trafficking and other crimes in the United States, with particular prominence in Hawaii and California. Treasury did not elaborate on the dollar value of American-based accounts that might be frozen under the new sanctions.
In a statement, the Treasury said the group made “billions of dollars” every year around the world. Its criminal activity includes prostitution, money laundering, fraud, and trafficking in humans, weapons and drugs, the department said.
The action “casts a spotlight on key members of criminal organizations that have engaged in a wide range of serious crimes,” David S. Cohen, under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.
“We will continue to work with our international partners to target those who deal in violence, narcotics, money laundering and the exploitation of women and children,” Mr. Cohen said. “Today’s designations are just the first under our new our sanctions authority to target transnational criminal organizations and isolate them from the global financial system.”
The Treasury is using sanctions authority created by a 2011 executive order to “target transnational criminal organizations and isolate them from the global financial system.”
In the executive order, President Obama said he had determined that criminal organizations — including the yakuza, the Camorra crime syndicate in Italy and Mexico’s Los Zetas drug cartel — “constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States.” He declared a “national emergency to deal with that threat.”