Yakuza boss who ordered fisherman’s killing to be hanged in mob ‘execution wave’

The boss of Japan's most notorious Yakuza clan was sentenced to death by hanging yesterday as a wave of executions of mob chiefs looms.

Japan's answer to Vito Corleone, 74-year-old Satoru Nomura never carried out a single violent crime of his own.

But the murder of a fisherman in the 1990s and three vicious assaults since were assumed to be under his order.

Nomura leads the infamous Kudo-kai clan of murderous Yakuza gangsters in Fukuoka, southern Japan.

Prosecutors don't have a shred of evidence Nomura orchestrated the mob violence, so his punitive sentence by such an archaic method has shocked much of Japan.

The gang members directly responsible were all previously convicted and handed jail terms.

Japan still allows death by hanging in the cases of multiple murders, rape and murder, or murder and robbery.

But growing political demand for harsher sentences for mafia chiefs like Nomura could cause a wave of death penalty rulings.

He is the first mob boss ever to be given the death penalty.

But Nomura may not be the last.

Answering the judge's shock ruling he said the decision would haunt him for the rest of his life.

Nomura told the court: "I asked you for a fair judgment. But this is not fair at all.

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"You will regret this for the rest of your life.”

If that sounds like a threat, it was probably meant to.

Nomura's violent gang is the most infamous branch of the Yakuza, Japan's long-running mafia groups dating back to the ancient samurai.

It is estimated more than 25k Japanese are members of such groups.

But few are as violent as the Kudo-kai, whose deputy Fumio Tanoue (65) was handed life imprisonment yesterday.

The blockbuster trial took place without a jury due to fears the Yakuza could intimidate jury members and witnesses.

More than 90 witnesses gave evidence to the court, including ex-Yakuza soldiers.

Nomura's gravest crime was the alleged murder of a local fishing cooperate chief in 1998.

The man was thought to have stabbed the don's brother years beforehand, prompting the Kudo-kai's swift revenge.

Between 2012 and 2014, the Kudo-kai were also responsible for shootings and stabbings of a policeman investigating the group, a nurse who was allegedly disrespectful to Nomura, and a dentist.

In 2000 the Kudo-kai threw bombs into the home of ex-Japanese PM Shinzo Abe because he refused to support a mob-backed candidate.

A deputy got a 20-year sentence for ordering the attack, though it was never traced to Nomura.

Few Kudo-kai crimes ever were, prompting his surprise at the court's harsh verdict.

Hanging is the only execution method used in Japan, which killed its most recent death row inmate in 2019.

More than 100 prisoners remain on the precarious waiting list.

Nomura was horrified to join that fateful list.

He may not have the same luck as other members, though, as long as Japan's judges and political class continue to pursue their war against organised crime.

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