In the first arrest in relation to the yakuza's role in Japan's nuclear industry since last March's devastating earthquake and tsunami, police in Fukushima charged a senior yakuza leader for illegally dispatching workers to the reconstruction at the TEPCO-run Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Plant. According to reports by Sankei Shinbun and other sources, the Organized Crime Control Division has arrested a senior boss of the Sumiyoshi-kai (住吉会) who dispatched men, including yakuza members to a construction subcontractor in Tochigi Prefecture, and these men were sent into the nuclear plant area where they allegedly participated in containment work for the damaged facilities. 

The charges pertain to labor dispatches from May to the end of July last year. The labor dispatch laws forbid dispatching workers to construction sites. Japan’s nuclear industry has long been fraught with yakuza connections which we first wrote about last June. TEPCO is not the only nuclear power plant operator in Japan to get in trouble for using yakuza-supplied labor. KEPCO (Kansai Electric Power Company) also had workers illegally supplied by a Kudo-kai front company working at their Ooi Nuclear Power Plant. A Fukuoka Police investigation in January uncovered the problem. The Kudo-kai is an extremely violent yakuza group based in Kyushu, and like other southern Japan gangs they are known for their fondness of pineapples.

 

TEPCO is due to be effectively nationalized by the Japanese government. The firm’s legacy of cronyism, incompetence, cover-ups, and organized crime connections were a large part of the decision to remove TEPCO from private hands. Hopefully, a change in command will result in a change in safety, compliance, and working conditions at the nuclear power plants they have operated.