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Taxi drivers expose additional graft details

Date Posted: 2004-12-24

Irate taxi drivers continue to reveal new information about special deals between select taxi companies, hotels and gangsters.

The latest allegations are that gangsters are demanding kickbacks from taxi drivers who have the lucrative parking spots at resort and business hotels. Some taxi drivers pay the hotels, or gangsters, or both, for the privilege of being at the front door. Those who don’t make the payments are chased off by hotel staff.

Taxi drivers who aren’t in the favored spots are speaking out even more, hoping to get Prefecture Police to take notice. They’re saying the illicit business has been going on for six to ten years, with drivers paying the gangsters for the additional business they derive. The taxis picking up fares from the hotels take customers to hostess clubs, cabarets and soaplands, where they receive kickbacks from those businesses. “Would you like to go to nice girl shops?” they ask. “I know the best places to go. I’ll take you.” That’s what the drivers tell tourists, according to the disgruntled taxi drivers, who say the response is usually “Oh yes, please take us, because we don’t know anything about Okinawa.”

It’s traditional that tourists turn to taxi drivers to know the best places to go, and on Okinawa, they’re not being disappointed. The key now is that taxi drivers are paying “¥30,000 to ¥2,000,000 a year to gangsters for the protection. The gangsters are saying ‘hey! You guys have a lot of commissions from clubs or cabarets or bars or soaps, so you pay us.”

One taxi driver involved in the payoffs says “It’s give and take. We each help each other.”

Prefecture police say they’re not going to give the taxi drivers a free pass, but that they are watching.

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