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Japan- In a society where conformity is highly valued, and outward signs of individuality can arouse suspicion, the yakuza, Japan's native organized crime group, deliberately goes against the grain; or, as they would say in Japan, the yakuza stubbornly refuses to be "hammered down," referring to the often quoted national proverb, "The nail that sticks up must be hammered down."
The origin of the yakuza is a matter of some debate. Some feel that its members are descendents of the 17th-century kabuki-mono (crazy ones), outlandish samurai who reveled in outlandish clothing and hair styles, spoke in elaborate slang, and carried unusually long swords in their belts. The kabuki-mono were also known as hatamoto-yakko (servants of the shogun). During the Tokugawa era, an extended period of peace in Japan, the services of these samurai were no longer needed, and so they became leaderless ronin (wave men). Without the guidance of a strong hand, they eventually shifted their focus from community service to theft and mayhem.
Current yakuza members fall under three general categories: tekiya (street peddlers), bakuto (gamblers), and gurentai (hoodlums). The peddlers and gamblers trace their roots back to the 18th century while the hoodlums came into existence after World War II when the demand for black market goods created a booming industry. Traditionally the tekiya, medieval Japan's version of snake-oil salesmen, worked the fairs and markets while the bakuto worked the towns and highways. The gurentai, by contrast, modeled themselves on American gangsters of the Al Capone era, using threats and extortion to achieve their ends. After World War II, in the governmental power void caused by the Occupation, the gurentai prospered, and their ranks swelled. They also brought organized crime in Japan to a new level of violence, replacing the traditional sword with modern firearms, even though guns were now officially outlawed in the country as a result of the surrender.
Yakuza members also favor tattoos, but theirs are elaborate body murals that often cover the entire torso, front and back, as well the arms to below the elbow and the legs to mid-calf. Naked, a fully tattooed yakuza looks like he's wearing long underwear. Dragons, flowers, mountainous landscapes, turbulent seascapes, gang insignias and abstract designs are typical images used for yakuza body art. The application of these extensive tattoos is painful and can take hundreds of hours, but the process is considered a test of a man's mettle.
In Japan there are 110,000 active members divided into 2,500 families. By contrast, the United States has more than double the population of Japan but only 20,000 organized crime members total, and that number includes all criminal organizations, not just the Italian-American Mafia. The yakuza's influence is more pervasive and more accepted within Japanese society than organized crime is in America, and the yakuza have a firm and long-standing political alliance with Japan's right-wing nationalists. In addition to the typical vice crimes associated with organized crime everywhere, the yakuza are well ensconced in the corporate world. Their influence extends beyond Japanese borders and into other Asian countries, and even into the United States.
Like the Mafia, the yakuza power structure is a pyramid with a patriarch on top and loyal underlings of various rank below him. The Mafia hierarchy is relatively simple. The capo (boss) rules the family with the assistance of his underboss and consigliere (counselor). On the next level, captains run crews of soldiers who all have associates (men who have not been officially inducted into the Mafia) to do their bidding.
The yakuza system is similar but more intricate. The guiding principle of the yakuza structure is the oyabun-kobun relationship. Oyabun literally means "father role"; kobun means "child role." When a man is accepted into the yakuza, he must accept this relationship. He must promise unquestioning loyalty and obedience to his boss. The oyabun, like any good father, is obliged to provide protection and good counsel to his children. However, as the old Japanese saying states, "If your boss says the passing crow is white, then you must agree." As the yakuza put it, a kobun must be willing to be a teppodama (bullet) for his oyabun.
The levels of management within the yakuza structure are much more complex than the Mafia's. Immediately under the kumicho (supreme boss) are the saiko komon (senior adviser) and the so-honbucho (headquarters chief). The wakagashira (number-two man) is a regional boss responsible for governing many gangs; he is assisted by the fuku-honbucho, who is responsible for several gangs of his own. A lesser regional boss is a shateigashira, and he commonly has a shateigashira-hosa to assist him. A typical yakuza crime family will also have dozens of shatei (younger brothers) and many wakashu (junior leaders
If a yakuza member displeases or severely disappoints his boss, the punishment is often yubizume, the amputation of the last joint of the little finger. A second offense will require the severing of the second joint of that finger, and additional offenses might require moving on to the next finger. A man knows that he must commit yubizume when his immediate superior gives him a knife and a string to staunch the bleeding. Words are not necessary
Like the Mafia, the yakuza in recent years have been forced to lower their standards when recruiting new members, and as a result some feel that they are neither as organized nor as powerful as they once were.
Russia- Russian organized crime includes crime groups from all the republics which comprised the former Soviet Union. These crime groups are operating in many of the major cities in California including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, and San Diego. Russian crime figures have been identified in cases involving extortion, prostitution, insurance and medical fraud, auto theft, counterfeiting, credit card forgery, narcotics trafficking, fuel tax fraud, money laundering, and murder.
Russian organized crime networks are also operating in New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Cleveland, California, Philadelphia, and Seattle.
Each boss, called a "pakhan," controls four criminal cells through an intermediary called a "brigadier." The boss employs two spies that watch over the action of the brigadier to ensure loyalty and that he does not get too powerful. At the bottom of the structure are criminal cells specializing in various types of criminal activity or functions such as drugs, prostitution, political contacts, and "enforcers." A similar structure places an elite leadership on top which is buffered by support and security personnel from the street operators who are commifting the crimes. Street operators are not privy to the identity of their leadership. Strategy and planning is done only at the top echelon in order to minimize the risk of detection.
Thieves' Code of Conduct - There is a traditional code of conduct within this old style of organized crime in Russia called "Vory v Zakone," or thieves in law. This group existed throughout the Soviet era and continues today throughout the republics of the former Soviet Union. In this society the thieves in law live and obey the "Vorovskoy Zakon," the thieves' code. The members are bound by 18 codes and if they are broken, the transgression is punishable by death.
Law enforcement officials in the former Soviet Union indicate that most of the organized crime groups are well organized with sophisticated technical equipment, computers, transportation, financial support, and an excellent counterintelligence network. Those groups are involved in extortion, precious metal and raw material smuggling, money laundering, fraud, weapons smuggling, narcotics trafficking, and black marketing.
A major group based in Russia is the Georgian Mafiya, which controlled much of the black market under the Communist system and has now extended its range of activities. Two other ethnically oriented organizations include the Chechens and the Azerbaijani groups, who have contributed to a major upsurge in the illegal trafficking of drugs, metals, weapons, nuclear materials and even body organs. Several of the Mafiya groups have infiltrated the Russian banking system and have used tactics of intimidation and violence against bankers and businessmen that do not cooperate.
Odessa Mafia - The Odessa Mafia is considered the dominant Russian organized crime group in the United States. This group established itself in the Brighton Beach area of New York City between 1975 to 1981. In the early 1980s the Odessa Mafia sent two sub-groups to San Francisco and Los Angeles with their leadership remaining in Brighton Beach. The San Francisco Bay Area Odessa Mafia group, unlike their southern counterpart, appear to be highly structured and well organized.
From the mid 1960's to the 1980's, approximately 35 million people were incarcerated in Soviet prisons. Approximately 28 to 30 million Russian inmates were tattooed. According to criminologist Arkady G. Bronnikov, who has studied taftoos of Russian prisoners for 30 years, inmates wore tattoos only after they had committed a crime. The more convictions a criminal received, and as the terms of incarceration became more severe, the more tattoos a convict would have.
Taftoos spell out lives of crime and establish the hierarchy of inmates. According to Bronnikov, at the top of the hierarchy are "pakhans" or organized crime bosses. The pakhans use the second level of the echelon known as the "authorities," (also known as enforcers, fighters, or soldiers) to carry out their orders. The "men" are the hard laborers and are the third level in the hierarchy. The lowest category are the "outcasts." These individuals are basically slaves to the upper levels of the echelon.
The tattoos present a picture of the inmate's criminal history. According to Bronnikov, "Tattoos are like a passport, a biography, a uniform with medals. They reflect the convict's interests, his outlook on life, his world view." A groups
Asain groups- Triads, Tongs, Gangs and the Yakuza are all considered groups associated with Asian organized crime. All four groups have a variation of differences and beliefs as well as similarities. The Yakuza began in Japan and have strong conservative beliefs, thus they are commonly accepted amongst members in the Country.
Originating in China, Triads began as secret societies that associated themselves as a brotherhood of protection and later tried to overthrow the Ch'ing dynasty. The Chinese people strongly believe in human connection and taking care of friends and family members, known as 'Guanxi.' Triads are considered to be extremely faithful and in order to join the secret society; members endured ritualized practices and oaths, as well as be introduced by a member. Instead of a centralized group, Triads have smaller intertwined groups and use a system of hierarchy that many other Asian gangs' use as a model. A majority of Triads are located in Taiwan, Macao and Hong Kong. Chinese officials deny the international scope of the Triads, even though their business arrangements have transcended globally and they are located worldwide and support each other by assisting with local contacts and business affairs. Triads have had an influence on other gangs forming as a result of their influence.
e American version of a Triad is known as a Tong. In 1848, Chinese individuals were transported to the United States to work jobs that were considered hazardous. During this time, Chinese people were discriminated against and were forbidden from certain areas. As a result, they sought protection in other cities and formed 'Chinatowns.' This was originally considered to be a community and safe haven and became known as a 'tang,' which was later changed to 'tong.' Immigrants who had been part of Triads in China joined these newly formed Tongs and continued with their illegal business activities. "While most tongs were business, fraternal, or political in character, the 'fighting tongs' licensed illegal business and were part of a tight-knit nationwide alliance." (Abadinsky, 2009. 225) While Triads are well known for their international business transactions, Tongs are known to deal locally.
Asian gangs originally formed as a result of unfavourable circumstances and feeling estranged from other people. Gangs use similar initiation methods that Tongs and Triads use, which include burning paper and repeating oaths. While some individuals consider Asian gangs a spin-off of Tongs, researchers state otherwise. Tongs use Asian gangs as a form of protection for their illegal establishments. "Although not all Asian gangs have a tong connection, some have formed around a tong member, typically a martial arts master who helps train the members (Chin 1990), and they may be used by the tongs to provide security for gambling operations." (Abadinsky, 2009. 226). Despite similarities between the Asian gangs and Tongs, most gang members do not consider themselves to be Tongs. While most of these groups were instituted as a form of protection for its members, and a common view of loyalty and a sense of family resonate amongst all four groups, it should not be overlooked that these groups are involved in criminal activities and had influence on other Asian organised crime groups.
Mafia-An organized crime is a group, such as the Mafia, biker gangs, gangs, of criminals whose sole purpose is to gain money and power in connection with associated organizations. The Mafia is one of these groups; this article will view the Mafia from areas such as history, structure and operation, activities and participants. In addition, an in-depth look at everything from organized crime roles in drug trafficking and law enforcement's attempts at preventing organized crime.
The Mafia is structured much like a modern corporation, almost military like, in the sense that duties and responsibilities are distributed down through a chain of command that is organized in hierarchical (pyramid) formation. According to the Chicago Syndicate (2006), the Mafia is set up as follows: One main boss, a trusted advisor and a second in command that typically heads a faction of 10 or more soldiers comprising a crew.
A foot soldier that carries out the day-to-day business of the family and lower-ranking soldiers and Mafia affiliates, typically a non-Sicilian or non-Italian member. Organized crime is just that: organized and structured. Having structure is one way to keep and maintain control of an organization and that is what has kept the Mafia strong.
Operations in the Mafia have to be carried on a day-to-day basis, regardless of whether the Russian Mafia or the Italian Mafia or any organized crime group. Wherever one finds these groups, the operations are different yet similar. Usually a main boss exploits the sub boss or the under boss, which in turn does the same thing this time with the capos, which in turn does the same thing with the soldiers. As one can see, this is a trickle down effect.
Organized crime- Modern organized criminal enterprises make money by specializing in a variety of crimes, including extortion, blackmail, gambling, loan-sharking, political corruption, and the manufacture and sale of illicit narcotics. Extortion, a time-tested endeavor of organized crime, is the acquisition of property through the use of threats or force. For instance, a criminal enterprise located in a certain neighborhood of a city may visit shopkeepers and demand a specific amount of so-called protection money. If a shopkeeper does not pay the money, the criminal organization may strike at him, his property, or his family. Conspiracy & Hierarchy -- planning, organizing, executing; three or more permanent levels of rank with a division of labor or specialization
Ideology of Economics -- it's just business, nothing personal; it's probably more accurate to say they have no ideology, no politics; intimidation, violence, and coercion are business, profit oriented
Perpetuity -- the organization is designed to last through time, beyond the lifespan of current members via a mix of legitimate "fronts"
Monopoly -- they often seek total control over a particular turf or industry, seeking goods or services that are presently illegal or quasi-illicit and that have such a demand that raising price won't matter
Strict discipline -- the group controls its members promptly, deadly; there's a code of silence, secrecy, extensive rules and regulations
Restricted membership -- usually on ethnic, kinship, criminal record, or other grounds; applicants need a sponsor; not anyone can join
Immunity from prosecution -- the group is interested in corruption, in fixing the criminal justice system
Organized crime groups are motivated by money rather than ideology-a characteristic that distinguishes them from organized terrorism. Although there are occasional links between terrorist groups and organized criminals (e.g., the Russian Mafia is often accused of supplying Russian nationalists with weapons), organized criminals generally avoid connections with terrorists and are much more restrained and functional in their use of violence.
Unlike other organized crime groups that tend to concentrate in a range of illegal activities, the Colombian and Mexican cartels focus their efforts primarily, if not exclusively, on the drug business. The cartels have merged corporate and criminal cultures more successfully than other groups, developing an industry that is based on sound management principles that include specialization and division of labor.
The main Colombian cartels are centered around various tight knit families in Medellin and Cali. The main drug trafficking families in Columbia control large production and distribution networks with vast agricultural enterprises dispersed throughout the Andes mountain range. This includes multiple laboratories and production facilities that generate over nine hundred metric tons of cocaine per year and a distribution network that moves raw materials and finished product by plane, ship, and every other means imaginable to destinations on four continents. The cartels also manage an extensive marketing operation that focuses on the United States and increasingly major European cities. These groups maintain a sophisticated financial and accounting system to keep track of thousands of tons of product and billions of dollars in profit. They then launder the proceeds in the financial and banking networks and repatriate some of the laundered funds. Much of these funds are then invested in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.
A 2,000 mile border with the United States provides Mexican organized crime groups with a unique geographic advantage, allowing for access to the world's largest consumer of drugs. Somewhere between 50 and 70 percent of the South American cocaine that enters the U.S., as well as 80 percent of the foreign grown marijuana that is consumed, is transported through Mexico. The Mexican cartels have also become involved in opium poppy cultivation and heroin production, currently producing 20 to 30 percent of the heroin consumed in the U.S. Further, these criminal organizations are increasingly dominating the manufacturering, sale, and distribution of methamphetamine, Ecstasy, and illegal steroids.
Alien smuggling, drug trafficking, and money laundering are big business for the Mexican Mafia and various drug cartels. Narcotics control has, of course, always been the number one U.S. concern, but the "Mexicanization" of American law enforcement is a growing problem as American officials are coming to more and more resemble the style of laid-back law enforcement so characteristic of Mexico.
Mexican cartels, also considered nontraditional organized crime, vividly illustrate the brutality of drug trafficking. For many years the Juarez Cartel has controlled the El Paso, Texas, gateway for drug traffic. Authorities believe that the Juarez Cartel is responsible for more than 300 drug-related disappearances in Mexico, more than 120 drug-related homicides, and 73 disappearances in El Paso. In a separate incident in 1998, a U.S. border patrol agent confronted and was murdered by narcotics smugglers along the Arizona-Mexico border. Events such as these along the U.S. border with Mexico are part of a larger pattern in which organized criminals attempt to maximize its profits by protecting shipments and territory through the use of deadly force.