Tattoos lead Thai police to arrest gang member

Tattoos lead Thai police to arrest gang member

He is implicated, along with seven others, in the killing of Kashihiko Otobe, who was the deputy leader of the rival Kamiya gang.

The 74-year-old was arrested after photos of him playing checkers at an outdoor table were posted to Facebook last year by a Thai man who was impressed by his tattoos. Except these photos, posted in August, went viral, ostensibly because they show Shirai's extensive chest and back tattoos. When I grow up, will I look like you?'

According to Thai police, he admitted he was a member of a yakuza gang but did not confess to the 2003 murder.

"The suspect admitted that he was the leader of the Yakuza sub-gang Kodokai", Thai police spokesman General Wirachai Songmetta said, referring to an affiliate of Japan's largest yakuza gang, the Yamaguchi-gumi.

Along with his tattoos, Shirai is also missing a little finger on his left hand - a common punishment for Yakuza members.

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Mr Shirai is wanted for murder 14 years ago and is suspected of being part of a gang that killed...

The Yakuza commonly punish wayward members by amputating the tip of a finger. When he got to Thailand - reportedly in 2005 - he married a local woman and seemed to settle down for retirement as a runaway, receiving money two or three times a year from visiting Japanese men.

He was arrested for entering Thailand illegally without a passport or visa and will now be re-arrested and face prosecution in his homeland. Shirai had tried to keep a low profile during his stay in Thailand, the police said.

The yakuza emerged in the chaos of post-war Japan turning into multi-billion-dollar criminal organisations involved in everything from gambling, drugs and prostitution to loan sharking, protection rackets and white-collar crime.

Members of the gangs traditionally distinguish themselves with intricate tattoos, which come to symbolise a person's toughness and acceptance of being an outcast from society. Unlike the Italian mafia or Chinese triads, Yakuza gangs aren't actually illegal, and sometimes the headquarters of each group is in full view of police.

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