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Gangsters switching attention to government offices

Date Posted: 2003-05-17

Hard economic times have caused local gangsters who long used to shakedown money from private businesses to switch their attention to various government offices, according to Okinawa Prefecture Police.

The police say there have been several instances of hoodlums from various gangs making threatening calls to city, town and village offices trying to pressure the officials to grant construction or other public projects to companies they are affiliated with. This is apparently because private companies simply do not have slush funds any more to pay the gangsters’ demands.

Police cited one example that took place in Ogimi Village last year. After village officials had granted a dam maintenance project to a local construction company, the village office suddenly received a phone call. The caller in very threatening tones accused the village officials of collusion with the company that had won the contract. The caller went on to say that unless the contract were switched to another contractor that he named or a sizable compensation paid, the caller would come with a couple of his friend to pay a visit to the village office and “make a bit noise.”

The mayor finally called the police, who identified the gangster group and made sure that none of its members came anywhere near the village office.

In another case, a post office received several threatening phone calls that did not end before the post office manager contacted the police.

Police officials suspect that gangsters have customary targeted private companies in the past, because they were reluctant to contact police, instead preferring to pay the hoodlums off. But now that the private companies’ cash has dried up, they are looking for new targets.

The Prefectural Police advises public officials to contact them immediately if they receive such phone calls. “Anyone who suspects harassment by gangsters should contact us immediately, and don’t hide anything,” a police spokesman said.

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