Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Yakuza oknha’s assets seized

Yakuza oknha’s assets seized

Police raid yakuza headquarters in Kobe, Japan in September.
Police raid yakuza headquarters in Kobe, Japan in September. AFP

Yakuza oknha’s assets seized

A senior Japanese underworld figure residing in Cambodia, where he was granted oknha status by the government in 2013, had his assets in the United States frozen yesterday by the US Treasury Department for allegedly laundering the proceeds of crime using a network of front companies.

Tadamasa Goto, 73, held numerous leadership positions in the largest Yakuza crime group, the Yamaguchi-gumi, and founded an affiliate group, the Goto-gumi, before he was expelled in 2008 and moved to Cambodia, the US Treasury said in a statement.

At the height of his power, he is said to have controlled more than 1,000 mobsters and affiliates, opened 100 front companies and had access to assets worth more than $1 billion.

“Tadamasa Goto possesses deep ties to the Yakuza and has been instrumental to its criminal operations around the world,” said John E Smith, acting director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

While head of the Goto-gumi, he was instrumental in the establishment of a network of front companies that laundered the Yamaguchi-gumi’s money, according to the statement.

“Despite his retirement from mob life, Yakuza figure Tadamasa Goto reportedly still associates with numerous gang-tainted companies that he utilises to facilitate his legitimate and illicit business activities,” the Treasury Department said. “He continues to support the Yamaguchi-gumi and remnants of his semi-defunct Goto-gumi by laundering their funds between Japan and Cambodia.”

Goto has also become a Buddhist priest, is a bestselling author and was made an oknha – an honorific title bestowed on tycoons who make significant contributions to Cambodia’s development.

He is listed under an alias as the chairman of the Sokdom Investment Group, headquartered in Canadia Tower. Since moving to Cambodia, he has cultivated a reputation for philanthropy, donating $100,000 to charity in 2010. He is also listed as chairman of G-Rise Japan, registered to a residential building on Chroy Changvar.

In 2011, he was photographed donating tens of thousands of dollars to the Bayon Foundation, headed by Hun Sen’s daughter, Hun Mana, and has donated significant amounts of money to the Cambodian Red Cross, led by Hun Sen’s wife, Bun Rany.

Naoaki Kamoshida, counsellor of the Embassy of Japan, declined to comment on the US sanctions and Goto’s activities in the Kingdom.

But a former Sokdom Investment Group accountant, who asked to remain anonymous, said the firm employed only five people when he worked there in 2014 and the staff did not know the nature of the owner’s business dealings.

He added that while the employees always received their salaries on time, it was unclear how the group made money.

“Many unknown Japanese used to come and go all the time,” the source said. “I did not see Goto often . . . but he only seemed to do charity work. The Cambodian staff knew nothing about the company.

“I was never told where the money came from.”

Additional reporting by Taing Vida

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen: Full country reopening to be decided in two weeks

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that if the Covid-19 situation remains stable for 15 consecutive days from the end of the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, Cambodia will reopen fully, albeit in the context of Covid-19 whereby people have to adjust their lives to

  • Cambodia unveils new quarantine regulations

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Hun Sen: Cambodia set to fully reopen

    Prime Minister Hun Sen concludes that the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, during which many people either flocked to their hometowns for family reunion or gathered at tourist attractions across the country, has not caused an outbreak of Covid-19. In a special address to

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Cambodia voted ‘world’s friendliest country’ in Rough Guides reader poll

    Cambodia ranked number one among the “World’s Friendliest Countries”, according to a reader poll conducted by London-based international website “Rough Guides”. Taking submissions through Twitter and Facebook, “Rough Guides”, a well-known travel agency and publisher of guidebooks, said the Kingdom “was by far the