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Major Japanese crime figure arrested in Hawaii

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HONOLULU -- Federal agents who arrested the reputed leader of Japan's largest crime ring and two other men say they planned to have a rival killed with a rocket, attempted to smuggle guns and trafficked $56 million in drugs.

The arrests of reputed gang leader Masashi Takenaka, 48, Toyohiko Ito, 58, also known as Hideomi Oda, and Kiyoshi Kajita, 47, represent 'the most significant prosecution of Japanese crime figures in the United States,' U.S. Attorney Daniel Bent said.

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'These arrests of the highest level Japanese organized crime figures strike at the heart of Japanese organized crime and particularly their criminal activities in the United States,' Bent said.

The arrests and seizures culminated a yearlong investigation into Yakuza activities in Hawaii, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The three men were in custody today on charges of conspiracy to import methamphetamine, importation of the drug, conspiracy to travel in foreign commerce with the intent of murder-for-hire and smuggling firearms. Arrested Monday, they were ordered to appear at a detention hearing Thursday.

Takenaka is a reputed leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi, which Japanese police call the largest of that country's Yakuza rings with 11,000 members, Bent said.

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The Yakuza, similar in organization to the Mafia, controls illegal gambling in Japan and is involved in prostitution, loan sharking, extortion, drug trafficking and firearms smuggling. Members cut off their little fingers to atone for blunders and extensively tatoo their bodies to show permanent commitment to the group. The word yakuza means worthless or useless.

'Takenaka is the heir-apparent of the Yamaguchi-gumi and there has been some turmoil in the Yamaguchi-gumi since the murder of his brother,' said Bent, explaining that the slain brother had been a leader of the gang.

'We have been told he is the leader of a large portion of the Yamaguchi-gumi.'

The complaint filed against the men charges that Takenaka met in a Waikiki hotel room last month with federal agents posing as American organized crime figures and asked them to provide someone to assassinate a rival member of the Yamaguchi-gumi with a rocket launcher.

The conversation was audio- and video-taped by undercover agents, Bent said.

The complaint also alleges Takenaka and Kajita met with the phony mobsters in May in another Waikiki hotel room to inspect 100 .38-caliber handguns, five rocket launchers and a machine gun to be smuggled into Japan.

The drug charges stem from the seizure of 32 pounds of methamphetamines, known as speed, and two pounds of heroin in Honolulu Monday and 20 pounds of methamphetamines and 10 pounds of heroin seized in Hong Kong. Five people were arrested Saturday in Hong Kong in the smuggling operation.

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The drugs seized had a street value of $56 million, said Joseph Brzostowski, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration chief in Honolulu.

The DEA led the investigation along with the U.S. Customs Service, with support from the FBI, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Division, the Honolulu Police Department, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

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