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  • You know all the mafia horror stories - the  Italian Mafia ruthlessly shaking down small  

  • business owners; the South American drug  cartels brutally executing their rivals;  

  • the predatory organ smugglers who'll steal your  kidney right from your body. You've heard it all,  

  • right? We'll see... You're probably less familiar  with the secretive, shady underworld of the Asian  

  • mafias, but these criminal enterprises  have centuries of experience in violence,  

  • crime and deception and can give all  those other gangs a run for their money.

  • Of the two most famous though, Japanese Yakuza  and Chinese Triad - which is the deadlier mafia?

  • What exactly isorganized crime”, anywaysThe simple definition, from the Encyclopedia  

  • Britannica, is a “complex of highly centralized  enterprises set up for the purpose of engaging  

  • in illegal activities.” These illegal  activities can be anything from cargo theft,  

  • fraud, and robbery, to kidnapping  and demandingprotectionpayments,  

  • to the sale of drugs, prostitution, loan-sharkingand gambling. Organized crime is in the business  

  • of profiting off of the strong consumer  demand for illegal goods and services.

  • If the gangs are just giving people what  they want, what's the problem? Well,  

  • according to the FBI, “the vast sums of money  involved can compromise legitimate economies  

  • and have a direct impact on governments through  the corruption of public officials.” Plus,  

  • there's the problem of their often brutal  and violent methods - threats, blackmail,  

  • kidnapping, violence, even murder are just  the costs of doing business for the mafia.

  • A group with as few as 6 members can be  considered a Criminal Enterprise by the FBI,  

  • but the most successful groups have  thousands of members. The number of  

  • criminal organizations in the U.S. exploded  in the 20th century, thanks in large part  

  • to the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s,  and they have been flourishing ever since.

  • Organized crime may be relatively new in  the States, but Europe and Asia have always  

  • had a thriving organized crime culture - the  Sicilian Mafia and the Japanese Yakuza have  

  • been in operation for centuries. The Italian  Mafia is much more familiar to westerners  

  • than the Japanese Yakuza because the Mafia  has extensive international operations,  

  • while the Yakuza and other Asian mafias  have tended to contain their operations to  

  • their homelands, although that's changing in  recent years with the rise of globalization.

  • To figure out which is the deadlier mafialet's explore the fascinating history of  

  • the Asian mafias, look into their brutal  crimes and money-making schemes, and meet  

  • some former members to get the inside scoop  on the Japanese Yakuza and the Chinese Triad.

  • First, let's take a look at  the infamous Chinese Triads.  

  • The modern Chinese Triad gangs can trace  their roots back to the 17th century,  

  • when groups of Hung Mun people joined together  in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the  

  • Qing dynasty and restore the Ming dynasty. The  term Triad referred to any number of different  

  • secret Chinese societies that have  emerged in the last few centuries  

  • with missions as wide-ranging as starting  rebellions to profiting off of illegal gambling.

  • In 1911, the Chinese Nationalist Party  would partner with a secret Triad society  

  • and use them to attack their political  enemies and suppress union uprisings.  

  • When the communists came to power in 1949  and cracked down on secret societies,  

  • the Triads fled to British-controlled Hong  Kong. By the 1960s, there were more than  

  • 60 triad gangs in Hong Kong, and it was estimated  that 1 in every 6 people was a gang member.  

  • When the British took a hands-off approach  to policing gangs within Kowloon Walled City,  

  • a walled-in slum area within Hong Kong, Kowloon  became a hotbed for drugs, crime and gangs.

  • Today, there are up to 100,000 Triad members in  Hong Kong alone. The Triads are first and foremost  

  • a drug cartel - a huge portion of their revenue  comes from the trafficking of cocaine, heroin  

  • and opium. Like any modern criminal enterprisethough, the Triads are well diversified. They have  

  • their hands in all kinds of illegal activitiesfrom arms smuggling and home invasion to credit  

  • card fraud, counterfeiting and whitecollar  crime. They also dabble in loansharking,  

  • gambling, prostitution, and they even profit  from trafficking endangered plants and animals.

  • The Triads are also increasingly involved in human  trafficking. The U.S. estimates that up to 100,000  

  • illegal aliens are smuggled into the country  by the Triads each year, and that they are then  

  • forced to work off their debt to the gangsters  with years of servitude. While the triads are  

  • a Chinese gang based mainly in Hong Kong, they  have connections all over the world. When the  

  • communists chased the triads out of China, those  who didn't flee to Hong Kong ended up in Taiwan,  

  • southeast Asia and even the US. Between their  international cells and their connection to  

  • the Italian cartels, the Triads are quickly  becoming an international criminal organization.

  • All gangs value loyalty, but it takes on  a special meaning in the Chinese Triads,  

  • where family relationships are a key part of the  organization's hierarchy. Membership in the Triads  

  • is hereditary, meaning a family connection  can guarantee you a place in the gang. Even  

  • non-related gang members are taught to consider  their fellow gang members as blood brothers,  

  • and there is a “duty of mutual helpbetween  gang members and even different gang factions.  

  • In a nod to their secret society roots, new  Triad members must undergo an initiation,  

  • which includes swearing the 36 oaths and  pledging loyalty to their fellow Triads.

  • While there are countless examples of the typical  violence you'd expect to find in the world of drug  

  • dealing and petty crime, the Triads have also  been known to perpetrate acts of violence out  

  • of a sense of patriotism. Sometimes, this  means acting against the establishment,  

  • but just as often it might mean the Triads  partnering with the rulers and police - if  

  • that's where the profit is. In 2019, crowds  of citizens returning from a political protest  

  • were attacked and beaten by mobs of Triads as the  police looked on, or even assisted the attackers.  

  • One protester was quoted as sayingthe  police and the Triads now rule together.”

  • Lee Fai-ping was born in the corrupt, violent  slums of Kowloon Walled City. He was raised by  

  • his uncle, and he was picked on constantly  growing up. He joined the Triads as a teen,  

  • seeking to fit in and end the bullying, and soon  found himself with money, power, and, of course,  

  • drugs. In his decade with the gang, he recruited  new gang members, sold drugs, and even worked as a  

  • pimp. He went to prison on 10 different occasions  for robbery, extortion and drug offences.

  • After a failed suicide during his last stint  in prison, he decided to turn his life around.  

  • He got clean, got a job, and started volunteering  at the same treatment centre that had helped him.  

  • He met his future wife, got married and had  a son, and spent the next 30 years helping  

  • other young Triads and addicts leave  crime behind. In 2012, he became the  

  • first former triad to receive a gold medal from  the government in recognition of his services.

  • There's no doubt that the Chinese  triads are a brutal and deadly mafia,  

  • but you just might be shocked to hear  about the brutality of the Japanese Yakuza.

  • The Japanese Yakuza is one of the  world's oldest organized crime outfits,  

  • having been founded in Japan nearly 400  years ago by members of the burakumin class,  

  • thenon-humanswho were below even the  lowest class of Japanese hierarchical society.  

  • They partnered with fugitives from  the higher classes, as well as  

  • gamblers - gambling was and still is illegal in  Japan - and began participating in typical gang  

  • activities - extortion, theft and turf warsThe Japanese rulers even established official,  

  • sanctionedbossesto lead the gangs, hoping  to quell the violence from these gang wars.

  • The modern yakuza have made efforts  to at least appear legitimate, with  

  • front companies, fancy offices, corporate  logos and even employee pension plans. The  

  • yakuza specialize in high-level financial fraudbut they dabble in other illegal activities too.  

  • They extort money from corporations and use  it to bribe politicians and law enforcement  

  • to turn a blind eye to their activities - or even  influence things in their favor. In recent years,  

  • as the world becomes more and more connectedthe yakuza have branched out and begun  

  • investing their illegal profits in international  real estate on the West Coast of the U.S.,  

  • in Hawaii, and in South Korea. One of their  favorite investments are luxury golf courses.

  • What we call the yakuza is not one centralized  criminal enterprise, but rather a collection of  

  • many distinct but connected gangs collectively  referred to as the yakuza. Just a single gang  

  • in the yakuza collective, the Yamaguchi-gumiincludes nearly half of all active yakuza members.  

  • The Yamaguchi-gumi won the number 2 spot on  the Fortune 5 List of the world's biggest  

  • mafia outfits, raking in more than 6 billion  dollars of illegal revenue each year.

  • Loyalty is a central tenet of all organized  crime outfits, but the yakuza take it even more  

  • seriously than most gangs do. One high-ranking  defector, who we'll meet later on, has said:  

  • Being a yakuza is not like working for a company  or having a career - it's a way of life.” He goes  

  • on to explain that joining the yakuza was not  about money - instead, he and his fellow recruits  

  • thought they were being the idealmacho japanese  male, putting our lives at risk for our cause”.

  • There are many ways that yakuza members  can demonstrate their loyalty to the gang.  

  • Elaborate full-body tattoos done in the  traditional hand-poked style are a popular  

  • way for yakuza to prove their loyalty and  toughness. Hand-poked tattooing is much more  

  • painful than tattoos done with a modern gun, and  many members take the full-body part literally,  

  • even having extremely sensitive areas like their  genitals tattooed. Yakuza men may remove their  

  • shirts when playing cards together to display  their ink, but in public they are careful to  

  • cover up their tattoos, as it is a surefire way  to let civilians know that you're a gangster.

  • If full-body tattooing seems crazy to youjust wait until you hear about how the  

  • yakuza apologize to their bosses. If a yakuza  member displeases his boss, he will perform the  

  • traditional yubitsume ritual, cutting off their  little finger at the last joint and presenting  

  • the severed finger to their boss as an apologyThis practice originated early in yakuza history,  

  • and the idea was that the missing digit would  weaken the disgraced member's sword grip,  

  • making them more dependent  on the gang for protection.

  • The Yakuza actually makes an effort to garner  goodwill with the general public - in 1995,  

  • after the Kobe earthquake, and again after the  2011 tsunami, the Yamaguchi-gumi donated food and  

  • supplies to survivors. In recent years, thoughthe yakuza's traditional code of sparing civilians  

  • from violence has been continually violated bysmall but particularly brutal gang in the yakuza  

  • collective. The Kudo-kai has only around 600  members, but their recent string of violent  

  • crimes have taken a high toll on civilians. Yakuza  have been linked to the violent murder of the  

  • head of a fishermen's cooperative, to a brazen  hand grenade attack on the Chinese consulate,  

  • and to a petrol bomb attack on the home of  the country's Prime Minister. And these are  

  • just a few of the endless tales of brutality  and violence under the reign of the yakuza.

  • To really understand what it's like  to live inside the yakuza hierarchy,  

  • let's meet Takashi Nakamoto, a former high-ranking  yakuza gangster. He joined the gang as a young  

  • man looking for a sense of belonging, and  he spent more than 3 decades working his  

  • way up from foot soldier to senior member  of the notorious Kudo-kai yakuza faction.  

  • His work for the mafia landed him in jail  numerous times, including an 8 year stint  

  • for a violent attack on a business that had  dared to open without the yakuza's blessing.

  • During yet another prison sentence, Nakamoto  learned that his boss had died. That,  

  • combined with his nagging conscience about the  increasingly violent acts committed by his gang,  

  • prompted him to turn his life around. He was  released from prison and was fortunate to find  

  • a job as a noodle chef. His telltale missing  pinky doesn't hold him back in the kitchen,  

  • but it does make him stand out as a former  gang member. “The odds are stacked against  

  • people like me,” he says. “It's not  as if I stopped being a gangster and  

  • then became just like everyone else. I'm not  starting from zero...I'm starting from minus.”

  • So, Japanese yakuza or Chinese Triad - which is  the deadlier mafia? There's certainly no denying  

  • that both are brutal and powerful criminal  enterprises. Even though recent events have  

  • violated the tradition, the yakuza are not usually  known for involving civilians in their violence.  

  • The triads are a more loosely associated group of  gangs, and violence between triad gangs is common.  

  • Their violence often spills over into the publicand sometimes citizens are even directly targeted.  

  • That, plus their dealings in human traffickingmake them the deadlier and more nefarious mafia.

  • That said, as governments crack down on illegal  gang activities, mafias will have to adapt or die,  

  • and the yakuza, with their focus on high-techwhite collar crime and recent efforts to at least  

  • appear legitimate, seem much better prepared  to succeed in the future of organized crime.  

  • Only time will tell who will  truly be the deadlier mafia,  

  • but either way, we suggest you avoid  getting on the wrong side of any gangster!

  • If you're looking for more grisly mafia  details, be sure and check out our other videos,  

  • like this one calledCrazy Italian Mafia Crimes”,  or you might like this other video instead.

  • See you next time!

You know all the mafia horror stories - the  Italian Mafia ruthlessly shaking down small  

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Japanese Yakuza vs Chinese Triad - Which is the Deadlier Mafia?

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    Summer posted on 2021/01/22
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