Japanese underworld boss quits crime to turn Buddhist

Tadamasa Goto will enter priesthood after falling foul of yakuza leaders for 
allegedly passing information to the FBI
Justin McCurry in Tokyo 

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 7 April 2009 14.07 BST 

Tadamasa Goto, one of Japan's most notorious underworld bosses, is to enter the 
Buddhist priesthood less than a year after his volatile behaviour caused a rift 
in the country's biggest crime syndicate.

As leader of a yakuza – or Japanese mafia – gang, Goto amassed a fortune from 
prostitution, protection rackets and white-collar crime, while cultivating a 
reputation for extreme violence.

Tomorrow, his life will take a decidedly austere turn when he begins training 
at a temple in Kanagawa prefecture south of Tokyo, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper 
said today, citing police sources.

The 66-year-old, whose eponymous gang belonged to the powerful Yamaguchi-gumi 
crime syndicate, was expelled from the yakuza fraternity last October after a 
furious row with his bosses over his conduct.

Known as Japan's answer to John Gotti, the infamous mafia don, Goto reportedly 
upset his seniors amid media reports that he had invited several celebrities to 
join his lavish birthday celebrations last September.

Several months earlier he had attracted more unwanted publicity following 
revelations that he had offered information to the FBI in return for permission 
to enter the US for a life-saving liver transplant in 2001.

At an emergency meeting last October the Yamaguchi-gumi's bosses – minus their 
leader, Shinobu Tsukasa, who is serving a six-year prison term for illegal arms 
possession – expelled Goto, splitting his gang into rival factions.

According to the Sankei, Goto will formally join the priesthood on 8 April – 
considered to be Buddha's birthday in Japan – in a private ceremony.

The former gangster was quoted as describing the occasion as "solemn and 
meaningful, in which Buddha will make me his disciple and enable me to start a 
new life".

In his deal with the FBI, Goto reportedly gave up vital information about 
yakuza front companies, as well as the names of senior crime figures and the 
mob's links to North Korea.

Underworld experts have pointed out, however, that the bureau could have 
gleaned the same information from yakuza fanzines.

Goto's transplant was performed at UCLA medical centre in Los Angeles In the 
spring of 2001 by the respected surgeon Dr Ronald W Busuttil, using the liver 
of a 16-year-old boy who had died in a traffic accident.

The grateful don, who was suffering from liver disease, later donated $100,000 
(£68,000) to the hospital, his generosity commemorated in a plaque that reads: 
"In grateful recognition of the Goto Research Fund established through the 
generosity of Mr Tadamasa Goto."

Jake Adelstein, a former crime reporter for the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, 
received death threats before he went public with the transplant story last 
spring, and has been living under police protection ever since.

When it was assigned to cultivate the Tokyo area in the late 1980s, the 
Goto-gumi stuck to what it knew best: drugs, human trafficking and extortion, 
before new anti-gang laws forced it to move in to more lucrative areas such as 
real estate and the stockmarket.

At the height of their powers, Goto's henchmen were capable of unspeakable acts 
of violence, including bulldozing businesses that refused to pay protection 
money and administering beatings to victims in front of their families, reports 

A 1999 leaked police file noted that "in order to achieve his goals, [Goto] 
uses any and all means necessary or possible. He also uses a carrot-and-stick 
approach to keep his soldiers in line. His group is capable of extremely 
violent and aggressive acts".

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/ap ... s-buddhist
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