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Reputed yakuza big arrested in Japan

TOKYO, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- A man said to be the No. 2 figure in Japan's largest organized crime operation has been arrested on suspicion of being involved in extortion, authorities said.

The arrest of Kiyoshi Takayama, 63, is a significant development in the intensifying fight against organized crime in Japan, the Financial Times reported Thursday. Takayama is reputed to be the wakagashira, or second in command, of the Yamaguchi-gumi syndicate, which has 40,000 members, known as yakuza, the newspaper said.

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Takayama was arrested on charges of extorting 40 million yen ($480,000) from a construction company, police said. He has functioned as leader of the organization since its top leader was sent to prison in 2005.

The anti-yakuza campaign has reached into the construction industry, including a ban on yakuza members from work on what will be the world's tallest communications tower, The New York Times reported Thursday. The ban is a feature of a government and private industry effort in Japan to put an end to a longstanding relationship between organized crime and the corporate sector, the Times said.

Japanese officials said the crackdown was being carried out because organized crime is threatening the entire Japanese economy.

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