Japan's top mafia boss jailed

The head of Japan's largest underworld crime syndicate was jailed Monday, public prosecutors said, after the country's top court rejected his appeal in a gun control violation case. Kenichi Shinoda, 63, surrendered to Osaka prefectural (state) police and was placed in the local detention center, a public prosecutor's office spokesman said anonymously in accordance with the office's regulations.

Last Thursday, the Supreme Court sentenced Shinoda, who became head of the 40,000-strong Yamaguchi-gumi crime syndicate earlier this year, to six years in prison. Shinoda was found guilty of conspiring with a bodyguard found to be in illegal possession of a gun in 1997. He served 13 years in prison starting in the 1970s for stabbing another gangster to death.

Japanese gangsters, commonly called yakuza, are among the world's wealthiest, bringing in billions of dollars a year from extortion, gambling, the sex industry, guns, drugs, and real estate and construction kickbacks. They are also involved in stock market manipulation and Internet pornography.

Despite more than a decade of police crackdowns, the number of gangsters in Japan has grown. There were 87,000 gangsters in the country at the end of last year, of whom 45.1 percent were members of the Yamaguchi-gumi, according to the National Police Agency.

The NPA has vowed to crack down on those operations, and plans to post 10,000 more policemen around Japan over the next three years, reports the AP. I.L.

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