A rift has appeared in Japan's "yakuza" organized crime group, with Japanese law enforcement officials warning that the division could lead to a wave of violence among rival groups of criminals.
Just like the Chinese triads and the Italian Mafia, the yakuza participate in everything from drugs, gambling and prostitution to sharking of loans, white-collar crime and protection rackets.
But unlike their overseas equivalents, they operate with the explicit permission of the government and each of the designated factions have their own recognized headquarters.
Speaking on Friday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, "The government is aware that some member factions of the Yamaguchi-gumi, regarded as Japan's biggest crime syndicate, are showing moves toward secession."
"Police are working to collect information. We hope police will use this opportunity to take measures to weaken the organisation," Suga added.
The group boasts 23,000 associates and members.
Intermittent crackdowns and attempts by the police to choke off Yamaguchi-gumi's financial sources have gained energy, while a pitiable public image and Japan's robust financial system have made life complex for the gangs and made membership less appealing for possible recruits, specialists say.
According to the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, domestic reports stated the Yamaguchi-gumi dismissed 13 leaders of its member sections and that 11 of the expelled leaders were planning to establish a new faction, which could work closely with other gangsters to build a new organization.
Law enforcement officers were highly prepared and expecting inter-gang disagreement to turn fierce, Kyodo News said.
The National Police Agency will hold a crisis meeting on Wednesday to discuss the matter, the Nikkei newspaper reported.
According to the guardian, the organization had been seriously affected by rows over members’ split loyalties toward the organization’s chief, Shinobu Tsukasa.
The 73-year-old, who rose to be Japan’s most influential mafia boss in 2005, has allegedly angered allied gangs by giving special treatment to certain members and heading a push into new areas far from the gang’s traditional turf.