Kudokai President Raises Concerns, “Has the Judiciary Succumbed to the Yakuza?” | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Kudokai President Raises Concerns, “Has the Judiciary Succumbed to the Yakuza?”

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President Nomura was sentenced to life imprisonment on appeal. This time, he heard the verdict quietly.

In four incidents, including the shooting of the former head of a fisheries cooperative association in Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka Prefecture, Nomura Satoru (77), the top leader and chairman of the violent group “Kudo-kai,” was charged with murder, etc., and sentenced to death by the Fukuoka District Court in the first trial. However, on the 12th of this month, the Fukuoka High Court overturned the death penalty and sentenced him to life imprisonment. In the August 2021 Fukuoka District Court ruling, it was significant news that a death penalty was handed down to the top leader of a violent group for the first time, but this time, the reduction in sentence has once again garnered significant attention.

At the first trial in the Fukuoka District Court, when the death penalty was handed down, Noboru turned to the presiding judge and said, “You will regret this for the rest of your life.” This statement, which could be interpreted as a threat to the judiciary, also became a major topic of discussion. Speculation arose that this unusual remark might be a message to Kudo-kai members to retaliate against the judges.


However, this time, Noboru seemed to occasionally nod toward the presiding judge who read out the verdict, indicating some acceptance of the reduced sentence. Regarding Tagami Fumio (67), the vice-chairman of Kudo-kai and number two in charge, who was also indicted and received a life sentence in the first trial, the Fukuoka High Court dismissed his appeal. Noboru and Tagami have both appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court.

The four incidents for which Noboru and Tagami were charged with murder are as follows:

– The shooting incident of a former fisheries cooperative association chief in February 1998 (Kitakyushu City).

– The shooting incident of a former police inspector by Fukuoka Prefectural Police in April 2012 (same city).

– The stabbing incident of a female nurse in January 2013 (Fukuoka City).

– The stabbing incident of a male dentist in May 2014 (Kitakyushu City).

The Fukuoka District Court had sentenced death penalty, inferring involvement based on the experience rule of decision-making as a gang organization despite the lack of direct evidence of Nomura’s instructions in all cases. However, the Fukuoka High Court acquitted Nomura of the shooting incident involving the former fisheries cooperative association chief.

At the time of the incidents, Nomura was not the head of the Kudo-kai, but the leader of the secondary group “Tanaka-gumi.” The judgment recognized that the Tanaka-gumi had carried out the act. However, it remained uncertain whether Nomura had been involved in the decision-making process. The high court overturned the first-instance ruling, stating that it had made errors in evaluating evidence and reached unreasonable conclusions. Nomura was found guilty of conspiracy with the perpetrators in the other three incidents.

 The lawyer who belongs to the Civil Intervention Violence Prevention Committee of the Bar Association, which has been closely monitoring the Nomura trial, first expressed their honest impression, saying, “I was disappointed when I heard the appellate court’s decision. I was discouraged,” and then expressed the following thoughts:


“It could be said that the death penalty being upheld for the top of the yakuza in the first-instance judgment showed the government’s stance. I thought it was a bold decision. When the death penalty was handed down, there was a notice of self-restraint within the Yamaguchi-gumi. It was a major blow to the yakuza. It also had meaning in that their activities were restrained.”


He said he had hoped for the death penalty to be upheld. In addition, he noted Tanaka’s arguments in the appeal court.


“Both Nomura and Tanaka claimed innocence in all four cases in the first instance. However, Tanaka admitted to giving orders for the two incidents of stabbing a nurse and a dentist when it came to the second instance. Isn’t this the aesthetics, philosophy of the yakuza? He tried to bear his own guilt by admitting, ‘Nomura didn’t do it.'”


Furthermore, he strongly condemned, “From a lawyer’s standpoint, this doesn’t constitute an apology to society.”


“If you admit guilt, then you should confess everything in court about all the incidents caused by the Kudo-kai so far. There are unsolved cases. There must be incidents that the police are not aware of, that have not been uncovered. At the very least, they should talk about the incidents for which Kudo-kai members have been prosecuted. That would be an apology to society. And they should repent and serve their sentences. Just dedicating themselves to Nomura is not enough.”


Another lawyer pointed out the similarity between Tanaka’s admission of involvement in the two incidents and the LDP’s secret funds scandal, saying, “It’s not exactly the same, but there are similarities.”


“By admitting his own involvement, Tanaka denied Nomura’s involvement. This is just protecting Nomura and does not constitute an apology to society. When the LDP’s secret funds scandal became a major issue, members of the Abe faction made statements like ‘I apologize to former Prime Minister Abe’ because they were pushed into dissolution of factions. This became a subject of ridicule, like ‘Who are they apologizing to?’ The recipient of the apology should be the public. It’s a problem that both sides prioritize internal logic even in such situations.”


On the internet, opinions with the gist of “Did the judiciary lose to the yakuza?” were flying around regarding the decision to overturn the death penalty. In this regard, senior police officials dismissed conspiracy theories, saying, “It might have been rumored that the court was intimidated because Nomura said, ‘You’ll regret this,’ during the first-instance judgment, but that’s absolutely not the case,” but only stated, “We cannot possibly agree. There are many problems.”

  • Interview and text by Masahiro Ojima

    Nonfiction writer. He worked for Sankei Shimbun as a reporter for the National Police Agency, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Kanagawa Prefectural Police Department, the Judicial Press Club, and the National Tax Agency Press Club before going freelance. His recent book is "How We Live: Money, Women, and Quitting Time of the Modern Yakuza" (Kodansha + Alpha Shinsho).

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