Affected by Covid, Tokyo shopkeepers stop paying Yakuza

The powerful criminal organization offers "protection" with the obligatory payment of the "mikajimeryo". The lower income and losses caused by the pandemic have encouraged victims to oppose the practice. Fines for entrepreneurs who succumb to the Japanese mafia racket.

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Hit by the Covid-19 crisis, shopkeepers in the capital have stopped paying the local mafia Yakuza for "protection".

According to data from the Metropolitan Police, in the first three months of the year about 100 restaurateurs and other entrepreneurs stopped paying for the "mikajimeryo", the "lace" requested by Japanese gangsters.

The lower income and losses caused by the coronavirus emergency have encouraged victims to oppose the practice, Tokyo law enforcement said. The mikajimeryo does not only consist in direct payments in cash, but also in the obligation to purchase products offered by the Yakuza at exorbitant prices, such as drinking water, party decorations, lucky charms and flower boxes.

The police have strengthened the protection of premises run by entrepreneurs who oppose the racketeering of the criminal group. Between 2010 and 2020 between 390 and 510 shopkeepers a year stopped paying the mikajimeryo. In certain commercial areas of Tokyo, shop owners who pay the bribe to organized crime face a year in prison or a fine of up to 500,000 yen (3,750 euros).

The Yakuza is one of the most powerful criminal organizations in the world. The Japanese National Police has calculated that it earns about 10.6 billion euros from its illegal activities.