Global News

Japanese fugitive Shigeharu Shirai arrested in Thailand after distinctive tattoos are recognised

Japanese fugitive Shigeharu Shirai arrested in Thailand after distinctive tattoos are recognised

Authorities said Thursday a former Japanese Yakuza crime boss was arrested after 15 years on the run - for the death of a rival gangster, after a photo of his tattoos were noticed on Facebook.

AFP reports eight gang members were said to be involved in the rival's murder; the others were all arrested and sentenced to 12 to 17 years.

According to police, Shirai was a member of the Yamaguchi-gumi gang, a faction within Japan's Yakuza.

Shigeharu Shirai, 74, was a boss of the notorious Japanese mafia, the Yakuza, until he fled to Thailand in 2003 after supposedly murdering another gang leader. The other seven have been arrested but Shirai escaped to Thailand in 2005.

His arrest apparently came after photos of him sitting around a checkers table were posted on Facebook in August past year by a Thai who was impressed by the man's tattoos.

"When I grow old, I want to be like him".

Thai police say he admitted to being a member of a Yakuza gang, but he did not confess to the 2003 murder that he was wanted for.

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The seemingly innocent images were shared more than 10,000 times and were spotted by police in Japan, who alerted their Thai counterparts.

Tattoos on the back, upper arms and a missing tip of a little finger are trademarks of Japanese yakuza.

However, Yakuza are known for making much of their earnings illicitly through the likes of gambling, prostitution, drug trafficking and cyber-hacking.

They were long tolerated as a necessary evil to keep order on the streets and getting things done quickly - however dubious the means.

Police General Wirachai Songmetta said Mr Shirai's Japanese associates paid visits to him two to three times a year, each time bearing cash gifts at around $397. Each group has its own headquarters, sometimes in full view of the police, who refer to them as b?ryokudan [violent groups].

The gangs have been part of Japanese society for centuries now, and have an estimated 60,000 members.

He was arrested for entering Thailand illegally without a passport or visa and will now be re-arrested and face prosecution in his homeland.


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