Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

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

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

Shigeharu Shirai (R), a 74-year-old Japanese man accused of a gang murder in Japan 15 years ago attends a news conference at a police station, after being detained by police in Lopburi province, Thailand, Jan 11, 2018.

The post, which was shared more than 10,000 times, helped some users identify him as the fugitive and ended a multi-national manhunt between the Thai Investigation Bureau and the Japanese Interpol.

A missing little finger, which reflected a tradition by yakuza members of slicing off a fingertip in atonement for an offence, also provided a clue to his true identity.

Shirai must first face three charges of illegal entry before he is sent back to face the original charges he had managed to evade for some many years in Japan.

He'll be extradited to Japan in connection with the 2003 murder of a rival.

"The suspect admitted he was the leader of the Yakuza sub-gang Kodokai", said a Thai police spokesman, Gen WirachaiSongmetta.


Both were giveaways. The tattoo is characteristic of the mafia-like yakuza gangs in Japan.

Shigeharu Shirai is wanted over the shooting death of an upper-level member of the Kodo-kai, an affiliate gang of the Yamaguchi-gumi, in the town of Takasucho in Tsu City in July of 2003. They are a transnational group of crime syndicates believed to have 60,000 members across 21 different factions.

However, much of the yakuza's earnings come from illicit activities including gambling, prostitution, loan sharking, protection rackets, drug trafficking, cyber hacking and white-collar crime. The gangs calls themselves ninky? dantai [chivalrous organisations].

"He admitted that the victim had been bullied and there might have been plots within the Yakuza subgroups to kill him ... but he has not confessed to murdering the fellow gang leader", said Wirachai Songmetta, Thailand's deputy police chief.

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

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