A loans-to-mobsters scandal that is gripping Japan’s banking sector has widened after major lender Shinsei Bank admitted doing business with organized crime figures.
The country’s finance minister on Friday lauded Shinsei after it admitted a day earlier that one of its subsidiaries made more than a dozen loans to the notorious gangsters, known as yakuza. The criminal syndicates are involved in activities ranging from prostitution and drugs to extortion and white-collar crime.
“Our internal controls were not strict enough,” Shinsei president Shigeki Toma told reporters in Tokyo on Thursday.
Shinsei also admitted to opening accounts for what it called “antisocial forces,” a common euphemism for gangsters.
The revelation comes days after Japan’s financial watchdog said it would probe the country’s top three banks following a scandal that has made headlines for weeks and reportedly sparked a police investigation into Japan Inc’s ties with organized crime.
The Financial Services Agency (FSA) said it would look at Mizuho Financial Group’s business dealings as well as rivals Mitsubishi UFJ and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp, without disclosing further details.
Mizuho has been under fire since it emerged in September that it processed hundreds of loans worth about US$2 million for mob members.
The news of the FSA’s latest probe came a day after a panel of lawyers hired by Mizuho said bank executives knew it was doing business with gangsters, but failed to put a stop to the practice.
Yesterday, Japanese Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso called Shinsei’s admission “sensible” days after he slammed the Mizuho transactions as a “huge problem” and said the bank’s initial — and incorrect — claims that executives knew nothing about the shady loans was “the worst thing a bank can do.”
Aso also said yesterday that the government will look into the possibility of additional punishment to Mizuho as the FSA is planning more probes over the group’s loans to mobsters.
Authorities have long battled to keep gangsters from infiltrating Japan’s corporate sector amid fears about mob involvement in stock trading and the real estate sector, among other legitimate activities.
In 2007, regulators penalized a unit of Mitsubishi UFJ, the country’s biggest lender, for doing business with organized crime.